Title: Walk on Earth A Stranger
Author: Rae Carson
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins imprint)
Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?
Walk on Earth a Stranger is a story of perseverance and hope, of secrets and survival. On the long journey from Georgia to California, will Lee be able to find a safe place? Will she be able to figure out who she is along the way?
Lee is a quiet girl, a hard-working girl. A girl who knows how to hunt. She's rough from years of helping her father do chores and hunt for gold. She's not a typical girl for the time period. It's made her stronger, sharper, than most. After her parents are killed, after a man shows up with ideas of controlling her, controlling her gold sense gift, Lee is frightened. So she runs, heads off to California and the booming gold rush. But will it be enough? Will she be able to travel without being spotted?
The news of gold in California sent many moving across the country, from the east coast to the west, in search of fame and fortune. It's the American dream, to strike it rich, to make your own fortune. But the news of gold gets everyone moving. Families, immigrants, thieves and murderers. Not everyone is looking for gold. Some are looking for opportunities along the way. The chance to cheat someone out of their savings. Excitement can blind people. Gold can blind them even more. It's a time of hope, but also of caution.
There's a lot to be said about Lee's traveling on her own, masquerading as a boy. She wouldn't be able to get far if she stayed a girl, if she was a young girl on her own. A young boy? A runaway. There are plenty like him. As a boy Lee sees things she wouldn't normally see, is treated how she wouldn't normally be treated. She's grabbed hold of the chance to have some independence in her life, some freedom. There's a fair amount of honest talk about the expected roles and qualities of men and women for the time period here. Men are expected to be strong, to provide. Women are expected to listen, to marry and have children. But few do what's expected of them.
I was intrigued by Lee's gold sense. It overwhelms her when it appears, like an addiction or a compulsion. I was hoping it would appear more often that it did, though. But I can see why it wouldn't. How much gold would she come across traveling across the country? I found this book to be what I'd heard, an exciting, smart, feminist adventure across America. It did drag in parts, I took it to mirror those slow days on the trail for Lee, the dry, endless days of riding across the country. I'm curious about the rest of the series, what will happen next for Lee and the people she meets along the way. For western fans, those who enjoyed Vengeance Road, I'd recommend this.
(I downloaded an e-galley of this title from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.)