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A sense of belonging and a deep ache for home is something that resides in all our hearts. Set during the Californian Gold Rush, two Chinese-American siblings, Lucy and Sam find themselves running from their new temporary home after the death of their father, a miner and a gold prospector. With them, they carry some essentials, a stolen horse and the dead body of their father in a battered trunk.
As these siblings travel through a dry and dreary land devoid of people and hopes, they encounter mysterious tiger paws and giant buffaloes, symbolic and fantastical. Lucy years for stability, a place to settle down and live a life she deserves, whereas Sam, who is a girl by gender but identifies herself as a boy, wants to wander and face the adventurous side of life.
This historical fiction that is set somewhere in the 1840s is woven through memories of days gone by, the tumultuous present and a future that we are unaware of. The Chinese immigrant experience with its gritty edges, gives us a story that is unforgettable, engrossing and spellbinding. The author fills our heads with the irony that has been a part of our society since a long time and that is, it is the immigrants who decide whether another immigrant family is suitable for their community and subject them to unspeakable horrors if they decide otherwise. Lucy and Sam's memories of the past gives us a dysfunctional family divided by the need to make money and their present speaks volumes on hostility and bias. At the end, it's all about survival and Lucy and Sam through this journey together, apart and together again try to find their true identity.
Rarely will you read a book in which so much care has been taken over each word. The authors daily word writing count must have been well below the average. Each sentence is crafted meticulously. Throughout the book, the author takes time to reveal the character’s backgrounds and therefore the context of their actions. Whilst this means the reader’s connection with the characters is initially less personal, the impact of the discovered empathy later in the novel is more profound.
This is not a book about cowboys, saloon brawls and Clint Eastwood characters. It is about poverty, immigration, the destruction of native lands and sexual identity. It also a story of family; their collective and individual hopes and aspirations. Often unfulfilled, those dreams illuminate the harshness of the times and the circumstances of not being white or male in the American gold rush.
I have read all of the 2020 Booker longlist and this book should have at least made the shortlist. Whilst Shuggie Bain was the justifiable winner, in another year with a different judging panel this book could have taken the top prize.
A beautifully written novel by an exciting new voice. Zhang has created a couple of engaging protagonists, two children whose struggle to survive on their own after their father's death offers an original take on the Californian gold rush era and the plight of immigrant mining families. Although seen through the eyes of the young sisters, the story is neither childish nor mawkish, but uplifting and often funny, and the surprise ending leaves it open to a possible sequel.
This book is unassuming at first and as the story unfolds it tells an amazing tale of two people. I don't like to give any spoilers. but Lucy is a wonderful character throughout this book. however, its Sam who shines so bright across the pages. The family and their incredible journey are forgotten by those who men who write history. This book will stay with you for a long time for all the right reasons. its also gonna make you mad as hell in places.
A tale of sibling love and loyalty, gorgeously written. The description of the hideous life and abuse of the prospectors during the Gold Rush is gut wrenching and desperately sad. The descriptions of the cruelty and injustice are interspersed with lyrical passages of landscape and tenderness....a really remarkable achievement.
Beautiful. Poetic. A story of two girls, daughters of prospectors and their journey. Haunting imagery and lucid dialogue, I am surprised that this did not win the Booker. This is a bit of magic in a book
It took me 3 days to devour this tale. And it's beauty, sadness, will haunt me long afterwards. Each sentence was beautifully constructed and at now lol t the story drift or ramble. A moving tale of the immigrant Chinese experience in 19th Century California. Heart breaking but moving.