Title: Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy 1)
Author: Rae Carson
Publication Date: 2015
Although gold has been found in the hills of Georgia, most prospectors agree that the land has dried up and in 1849, the rush is bound for California. Fifteen-year-old Leah Westfall is content in her loving happy home with her father and mother. Times are tough and her father’s lingering cough and lack of another male in the household necessitate Leah mucking out the stalls, hunting for fresh meat, and helping her mother with the daily chores. Leah’s father “Lucky” Westfall has a small store of gold that is parceled out sparingly to help support the family. The secret that the family keeps is Leah’s ability to divine gold; her witchy-sense directs her to the precious mineral found deep in the earth. Her best friend is half-Irish, half-Cherokee, Jefferson. With a mean drunk father, Jefferson grasps an opportunity to escape and head West in the quest for gold and asks Leah to go with him. But, she is reluctant to leave her family and the home that she loves.
Although the family lives poorly, someone else has sensed the bag of gold dust hidden under the cabin and Leah returns home one evening to discover her mother and father murdered and the gold missing. At the funeral, Leah learns that her Uncle Hiram has inherited the homestead; estranged from her father, her uncle welcomes her into her own home with warmth. But there is a deeper purpose to Hiram’s attention and Leah soon realizes that he knows about her ability and wants to control it.
Dressing as a boy and sneaking her beloved horse Peony and her father’s gun out of the house, Leah becomes Lee and flees West. Along the way, she is robbed, works on a flatboat on the Tennessee River, reconnects with Jefferson, and joins a wagon train heading West. The adventure, the struggles, and danger have only begun as the group travels toward the rich, fertile California life . . . and gold.
When I picked up this book, I had no idea it was a young adult book. The depth of characters, historical details, and intricacies of the plot make this a very engaging and exciting story. At the front of the book is a map of the United States that shows the journey that Leah takes. As she faces hardship and loss, her depth of character and her self-reliance grows. She is a fantastic literary role model for young girls, and there is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction, adventure and reality, magic and mystery that would entice any reluctant reader.
In the author’s note, Rae Carson describes herself as a writer of “adventure, magic, and smart girls who make (mostly) smart choices.” Leah is admirable but believable.
There are a number of secondary characters who help the story along but this is essentially Leah’s tale. Her magical ability to divine gold is referenced but is often not used as the primary purpose of finding gold. The story ends with a hint that this won’t be the case in the future.
Who might like this book:
In addition to having a strong female protagonist, this story presents a realistic fictional account of the trek across the country for the Gold Fields of California. It presents history in a dynamic and appealing story. This would be a great fictional read to accompany a study of the United States in the 1840’s. I’ve always felt that history truly can come alive through believable stories of the time period.
I think this book is very appropriate for middle grades and up. As a woman, Leah is very naïve and presents her views of the world around her in an innocent way. There is a little romance and a bit of violence, but the reader views everything through Leah’s naïve perspective. Two other books follow in the Gold Seer Trilogy: Like a River Glorious and Into the Bright Unknown. I enjoyed the first book immensely and look forward to continuing with the series.