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How Much of These Hills Is Gold

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How Much of These Hills Is Gold

A Novel

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.

Bookseller Recommendation

How Much of These Hills Is Gold

“In post-Gold Rush California, a Chinese-American family struggles to make money to improve their lives. When bad things get even worse, 10 and 11-year old Lucy and Sam take off on a stolen horse and head east, living off the land. Sam takes off on her own, and Lucy ends up in a town but never feels really at home. The two sisters meet up again several years later and decide to try to fulfill their mother's dream—traveling to China where they might finally find Home. With lyrical style that cloaks the narrative of a chain of miserable events in a dream-like quality, Zhang's writing evokes the real sense of alienation that many immigrants and displaced people feel as they search for a place to belong. The writing is beautiful. Recommended.”

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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 re-imagined 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.

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“This exhilarating novel unweaves the myths of the American West and offers in their place a gorgeous, broken, soulful, feral song of family and yearning, origin and earth. C Pam Zhang is a brilliant, fearless writer. This book is a wonder.”

Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanless

“A truly gifted writer.”

Sebastian Barry, author of Days Without End

“The writing here is intuitive, chewy, wonderful; the plot is devastating and the talent is dazzling. Zhang is a blazing writer.”

Daisy Johnson, author of Everything Under


About the author

Born in Beijing but mostly an artifact of the United States, C Pam Zhang has lived in thirteen cities across four countries and is still looking for home. She’s been awarded support from Tin House, Bread Loaf, Aspen Words and elsewhere, and currently lives in San Francisco.


“C Pam Zhang’s arresting, beautiful first novel is filled with myths of her own making as well as sorrows and joys”

The New York Times

“A fully immersive epic drama packed with narrative riches and exquisitely crafted prose…Zhang captures not only the mesmeric beauty and storied history of America’s sacred landscape, but also the harsh sacrifices countless people were forced to make in hopes of laying claim to its bounty.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“Just as Zhang tinkers with Western tropes, she also plays with language, weaving Chinese phrases with cowboy drawl, merging myths of tigers with fables about where the buffalo roam. Her prose at its best can be heart-stoppingly lyrical.”

USA Today

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