Book Review: How Much of These Hills Is Gold – C Pam Zhang

How Much of These Hills Is Gold hardback book cover
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Rating: 3 out of 3.

How Much of These Hills Is Gold is an unforgettable story about identity, belonging, and family set in the Wild West. Lucy is C Pam Zhang’s protagonist alongside her little sister Sam. Their mother is long gone and their father has just died, so the girls are forced to leave their decrepit home to fend for themselves and bury their dad.

The wilds are almost as challenging to handle as people’s treatment of them, mainly because of their bold, feral nature and Asian characteristics. Moulded by distinct journeys, Lucy and Sam must struggle through their tranformations and towards their desires.

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Strong Character Development

Both sisters are intriguing in their own special ways. Sam, as their father’s favourite, has always resented feminine and civilized ideals. Lucy, as the main target of his alcoholic fury, clings to her mother’s memory and dreams of an easier life.

But, as they say, there’s more than one side to a story, so the parents’ perspectives come into play too. This offers a wonderfully multifaceted account of events that likes to upturn assumptions. How Much of These Hills Is Gold is a great example of compelling character development.

Timely Discussion of Racism and Identity

The book draws heavily on the hardships the Chinese community faced during the Gold Rush, whether they were immigrants or US-born. The different immersive perspectives you get, from adults and children alike, make the topic of extreme discrimination that much more palpable.

At the same time, it leads into questions of belonging and cultural identity. To make things even more visceral and timely, themes of gender identity, sexism, and feminism come up too. The depths of How Much of These Hills Is Gold are intense indeed.

Engaging Writing Style Rich in the Vernacular

The story delivers its powerful messages without being super explicit or descriptive. The writing is beautiful and unique in its simple yet intricate style.

It’s also laced with the vernacular of each narrator, boosting its immersiveness tenfold. Writers looking to make their styles more natural and colloquial will find this novel invaluable.

Questioning of the American Dream

Finally, true to the thought-provoking features of influential books, How Much of These Hills Is Gold bundles all its timely themes into a big challenge of the American Dream. You’re led to wonder much about this grand social construct.

What is it really? Who is it for? What does it cost? Through the story’s very human side, the cracks in this gilded ideal become heartachingly clear.


How Much of These Hills Is Gold smoothly sweeps you along its otherwise quite hard narrative. Cultures clash and merge as two girls claw their way to some sense of identity and home. It’s a bittersweet novel brimming with heart and truth.

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