BOOK REVIEW: How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhan


Publication Date: April 6, 2021
Format: Kindle
Genre:  Asian American coming of age

Publisher: Riverhead Books
336 pages
Buy:  Kindle Paperback 


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 town, they set off to bury their father in the only way that will set them free from their past. Along the way, they encounter giant buffalo bones, tiger paw prints, and the specters of a ravaged landscape as well as family secrets, sibling rivalry, and glimpses of a different kind of future. 

Both epic and intimate, blending Chinese symbolism and reimagined history with fiercely original language and storytelling, How Much of These Hills Is Gold is a haunting adventure story, an unforgettable sibling story, and the announcement of a stunning new voice in literature. On a broad level, it explores race in an expanding country and the question of where immigrants are allowed to belong. But page by page, it’s about the memories that bind and divide families, and the yearning for home.


I got this book through the book club Literati 

I had a hard time getting into this book.  The lyrical prose lost me a bit in the beginning until I got used to.  Once I got in the groove I found this to be a beautiful coming of age book. Lucy and Sam have very different relationships with their father. Lucy and her father often butted heads but Sam and his Ba were thick as thieves.  In the opening of this book Ba has died and Lucy and Sam have to figure out how to bury him and what to do with the rest of their lives.  

The writing style, while difficult at first flowed beautifully in an almost poetic way. Broken up in different parts the first part of the book deals with what happens immediately after Ba dies, the 2nd part is a step back in time to when Ma was alive as well.  Part 3 shows what happens as Lucy and Sam grow.  

This is a beautifully written book, thought it is a sad tale.  It is not my usual genre but I am happy I read it.  It was truly an interesting and historical story. There is a lot of focus on immigration and connection to the land.  Ma was an immigrant, Ba and the children were born in the USA so they have a connection to the land. Unfortunately in the land of the free unless you are white no one sees you as anything but an immigrant. 

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