In a prologue the author explains how her fact-fiction book is based on her great-great grandfather's 1849 Gold Rush letters.
Against his parents' wishes, Eugene Chase makes plans with boyhood friend Leal to leave Vermont and seek their fortunes in California. Eugene's sister Hortense understands her oldest brother's desire; and she makes him promise to write letters home, addressed to her.
In March 1849, at nineteen, Eugene leave home for New York City. Leal is to meet him in St. Louis. Eugene's Uncle Lucien, who left Derby Line eight years earlier, lends his nephew the money for his adventure. "The fruits of your journey will reveal themselves in time," he tells Eugene.
From beginning to end, Eugene's journey is long and hard: a journey to a new land and adulthood. Throughout constant difficulties, Eugene shows courage and endurance. This is not true of Leal, who is a burden to all in their Pioneer Line company, which includes Judd, an older doctor. Eventually, Judd asks Eugene to join him for the final 200 miles to California. At the Carson River, after crossing forty miles of treacherous desert, the two men leave the company, then later mine gold together. But the travel West and gold mining leave Judd in weakened health. He leaves for the East, and Eugene heads farther north for richer gold fields.
In a epilogue, the author recounts that her great-great grandfather earned enough money to pay his passage home by sea, to net a clear one thousand dollars, and to build a fine house in Derby Line, Vermont.
A touching story of courage, love, and the pursuit of a dream. One late night in her family’s California mountain cabin, the author discovered her great-great grandfather’s 1849 gold rush letters. Eugene B. Chase’s voice spoke to her, and his words revealed how hard it can be to leave one place for another: to feel alone, hungry, and exhausted. Several years after finding the letters, the author fictionalized Eugene’s journey West. With her imagination drawing on the actual letters, she portrays the hardships, courage, and triumph of a young man realizing his dream. Beautiful artwork, gallery drawings, and a map of the journey from Vermont to California add authenticity to the story. The book engaged me from a historical perspective. To succeed, the young Eugene needed strength of character, determination, and belief in himself. The book has a valuable, timeless message for young and old, then and today.
New edition of an adult ESL read based on letters written by the author's great great grandfather. Gail Kenna thoughtfully captures the voice of the letters, reimagining a young man's journey from Vermont to California seeking fortune on the gold rush trail in the mid 1800s. It's a story of bravery, belief, and courage that really speaks to the reader. Beautiful collaboration with artist, Cort Sinnes!