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How Much of These Hills Is Gold
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How Much of These Hills Is Gold

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  136 ratings  ·  62 reviews
An electric debut novel set against the twilight of the American gold rush, two siblings are on the run in an unforgiving landscape--trying not just to survive but to find a home.

Ba dies in the night; Ma is already gone. Newly orphaned children of immigrants, Lucy and Sam are suddenly alone in a land that refutes their existence. Fleeing the threats of their western mining
Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: April 7th 2020 by Riverhead Books
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Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  136 ratings  ·  62 reviews

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This is an astonishingly stunning, timeless and original piece of epic historical adventure fiction from the truly talented C. Pam Zhang that heartbreakingly resonates in our contemporary world today. She fuses myths and fiction that comprise history and those that write it with the cultural folklore and myths that immigrants and their families bring with them in their conflicts, struggle and search for identity, a sense of belonging and home, amidst their efforts to survive in the face of ...more
fulfilling book riot's 2020 read harder challenge task #7: Read a historical fiction novel not set in WWII

review to come, but look! the ARCs pages are GILDED!!!

how great is that?
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What makes a ghost a ghost? Can a person be haunted by herself?
How much of these hills is gold was simply put, one of the best novels Ive read in years. A stunning story that was dripping with originality and writing that bled truth on every page. Absolutely transcendent of todays typical novel this book broke barriers and literally had me captivated late into the night, and the only thing C Pam Zhang left me with was an unbearable need for more, of her writing, of her beautiful short prose and
Gumble's Yard
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Because this land they live in is a land of missing things. A land stripped of its gold, its rivers, its buffalo, its Indians, its tigers, its jackals, its birds and its green and its living. To move through this land and believe Bas tales is to see each hill as a burial mound with its own crown of bones. Who could believe that and survive? Who could believe that and keep from looking, as Ba and Sam do, always toward the past?

And so Lucy fears that unwritten history. Easier to dismiss all Bas
C Zhang
Nov 09, 2019 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
it's the law
Jaclyn Crupi
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How much of this book is gold 100%! As much as I love McMurtrys Lonesome Dove THIS is the imagined mythology of the American West I want to read. This book will haunt you, it will break you, it will embolden you. Writing this good is a thing of beauty and it simply lights up in your hands. The prose is electrifying. ELECTRIFYING! The story is heart-breaking. The characters! The sense of place! I could go on and on. And I will. I could tell in the first 20 pages that this would be one of my ...more
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review; opinions are my own.

Um, wow. I am bowled over by this debut (?!) novel, one of the best I've read in recent memory. The fact that I also just finished BOYS OF ALABAMA and am almost done with REAL LIFE has me all kinds of tingly with excitement for 2020 novels, because these three are fire.

I didn't really know what to expect from a book about two siblings who set off with their father's corpse into the hills of the Southwest
Griffin Alexander
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This land is not your land.
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How Much of These Hills Is Gold is a ghostly journey to the past and back again, rolling down dry hills and dirt roads, with two young, steadfast protagonists seeking what it means to be and what it means to belong. Zhang joins the ranks of writers like Jesmyn Ward and even William Faulkner, with her skillful reimagining of the road novel, in which death and memory are driving forces, and even the landscape seems to speak in languages of weather, light and animal tracks. Plus, Zhang's prose is ...more
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
On her website, C Pam Zhang describes herself as Writer, perpetually restless.

Perpetually restless is a good description of the feel of this book. Perhaps in particular of the character Sam, sibling to the main character Lucy.

As the book opens, Lucy and Sam find their father, Ba, has died during the night and they set off to find a place in which to bury him. We are in California in 1862, only not quite the California you might expect. There seem to be tigers, for one thing (although you may
Tom Mooney
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a very fine debut novel. The writing is gorgeous, the story feels very original and the atmosphere Zhang creates is different to any other western I've read.

The only negative is the last of the four parts of the story. The first three are perfect but the last 70 pages is a bit of a mystery. The story slows rather than accelerates and the new characters that are introduced are far weaker and less well drawn than those earlier in the book.

Still, this is a beautifully written and very
Afton Montgomery
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
With this debut, C Pam Zhang demonstrates the sweeping narrative reach of Rebecca Makkai or Kamila Shamsie and the microscopic attention of a child playing pick-up sticks. The land and the story are odysseys, both, but the characters ache of precision. Zhang's writing feels brilliantly ambidextrous for the way that it uses third person to simultaneously create the varied hauntings of two siblings. Lucy and Sam travel many of the same Gold Rush paths together, but they filter the world vastly ...more
The most astonishing book I've read in awhile, How Much of These Hills Is Gold is a tour de force announcement of talent from C Pam Zhang. This book spoke really specifically to me as a second generation Chinese American reader living in the American West--sometimes quite literally so, as in the instances of untranslated, phoneticized Chinese that Ba, Ma, and Lucy all use. (That a critical piece of characterization and pivotal plot point hinged on such a moment of ...more
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
Really beautiful - gorgeous imagery and human connections. Themes of family, belonging, gender roles, parent and child relationships. All these so lovingly laid out and told in a strong voice of a Chinese girl whose father is a coal miner turned gold prospector in 19th century American West before he dies, leaving her and her little sister alone in the world and seeking somewhere to call home.
Jillian Doherty
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Any story that evokes this many emotion reaction, must to be five stars!

They were parts I loved and delightfully lost in, loving driven journeys, and the character development as a trench through each harrowing part of the story. They were also part that made me angry and wish they wouldve gone a different way~ but either way they created search reactions, the way only evocative storytelling can.

For me it felt like a cross between White Chrysanthemum and Whiskey When Were Dry - two of my
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-kindle
How Much of These Hills is Gold was such a pleasant surprise for me. The quality of the writing was excellent. It is hard to believe this is a debut novel. The characters are vividly drawn. This book reminded me a little of The Luminaries. It is narrower in scope and focuses on one Chinese immigrant family and in my view made for a better story than The Luminaries. If you like historical fiction, family saga, Chinese folklore, or just good storytelling you will probably enjoy this book. Thank ...more
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
My heart aches, in the good kinds of ways, after this. It's beautifully written, in short sips and then a few very long ones -- the story of two young children during the gold rush, trying to hang on after their parents have both died. But it's also a story about those parents, trying to make it in a racist California that doesn't want them (or anyone) to succeed.
It almost needs to be read in a few sittings; I took a bit longer with it, breaking away for other things, and it made the final
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to NetGalley and the published for this ARC.

I absolutely loved this book. It took me a little while to get into it, but by a few pages into the second part, I was hooked. The prose is beautiful, the story is completely unique and engaging and the characters leap off the page. This is a completely new way of looking at the mythology of the American West, and Zhang is pulling out a piece of history that has been underexplored. Heartbreaking, inspiring and thrilling in equal measure, this is
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaways
Unfortunately, I didn't connect to the writing style or story.

I received an ARC from Riverhead Books through a Goodreads giveaway.
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lgbt
Overwritten and in need of forward momentum
How Much of These Hills is Gold is a story of family and yearning, set in a dramatic American landscape. Lucy and Sam's father is dead and they are, aged twelve and eleven, off to find a new way to survive. The American Gold Rush is getting old, people aren't always welcome to them as Chinese-Americans, and they are haunted by their childhoods and their parents. As the narrative moves from present to past to future, it is clear that family and secrets aren't uncomplicated and people (and ...more
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Digital arc from edelweiss.

I wanted to love this book. The synopsis has a lot of promise, but the story fell flat for me. The only sentence I can come up with to explain my reaction is I wasnt buying it. Every new thing tossed into the plot had me asking why?. I didnt hate it, but I also didnt care about it.
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book two days ago and yet certain images from it continue to haunt me: the buffalo bones, the dust, the tiger paw prints and mostly, the flecks of gold. It is these flecks of gold that drive many individuals and families from all over the globe to seek their fortune trying to find still in the aftermath of the American old rush. This fortune proves allusive and potentially destructive, leaving us to question what we should really hold to be valuable.
Samantha and Lucy are
Matthew Tett
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully-written, somewhat poetic novel set in Americas west. Lucy and Sam are the daughters of Chinese immigrants, surviving in a tough time, and making their way in the world.

The novel begins with the girls father (Ba) dying. The mother (Ma) has already passed away. What begins is a journey further west, with the girls taking their fathers body to lay him to rest.

Zhang doesnt mention actual places - she refers to east and west - so readers are, to an extent, clueless as to where
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: histfic
Set during the California Gold Rush of the 1860s, this novel follows Lucy and Sam, two Chinese-American orphans who set out into the wilderness to find an appropriate place for the burial of their Ba. From this description, you could be forgiven for thinking that the bulk of the book comprises their odyssey, but thats not quite how it works; their travels together end a quarter of the way through, and the rest of the book consists of an extended flashback narrated by Bas corpse (hat-tip, William ...more
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How Much Of These Hills Is Gold by C.Pam Zhang

While not a literary style in my wheelhouse, I appreciate the authors intent and the complexity of her story.

Immigrant siblings Lucy, the elder, and Sam, the younger leave their home on horseback after both Ma and Ba have passed and left them young, unattended orphans. There is no way for them to stay in their gold rush town now. Ba must be buried and is carried along with them for 2 months before that happens, because they must bury him properly.
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
I won an ARC of How Much of These Hills is Gold through a GoodReads give-away. I had a tough time reading the first few chapters of this book. Lucy and Sam are newly orphaned after their fathers death. They take his body and head out of town searching for a place to bury him. They travel for many weeks and I wish I had been spared the graphic details of his decomposing body. The book is set during the Gold Rush and its a slightly different world. Tigers roam the West and giant buffalo are now ...more
Kim McGee
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Lucy and Sam and their father live a hard existence in the golden hills of the West. They piece together a living by prospecting, mining, and gambling in a place where fortunes are won and lost in an instant. Samantha becomes Sam to help in the mines and is content with the role of son whereas Lucy must fight against the only work a girl can do in a mining town. Sam craves the wildness and adventure and Lucy craves a sense of belonging, home, and roots. They are destined to seperate and come ...more
Elisa Garrett
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the first ever book I've won in a Goodreads giveaway, and I am so thankful (maybe even lucky, dare I say?) that it was this one.

The narrative is enthralling (I would have read this book in one sitting if it weren't for the fact that read this on my down time at work), the characters read like flesh and blood, and the navigation of themes is precise and thought provoking. Zhang's tale of two siblings and their question of "what makes a home a home?" left me heartbroken multiple times, and
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of survival and sibling rivalry set in Gold Rush-era California. The storytelling voice took a little bit of getting used to, but once I reminded myself that the whole story is viewed through the eyes of two children, and told with the vocabulary they had, the book managed to check off the "historical fiction" and "magical realism" boxes for me while maintaining a very musically illustrative pace. They never specifically mentioned "China" or identified ...more
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