Monday, September 28, 2015

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (Gold Seer trilogy book 1)

January 1849

Leah Westfall is fifteen years old and has the ability to divine gold from the Earth like others can dowse or witch for water. Since the Georgia gold rush has dried up, Leah has only found some dust in the creek beds after floods. While tracking a deer she shot, Leah finds a significant gold nugget, her first in more than a year. When she shows her father Reuben, nicknamed “Lucky” by the townsfolk because Leah’s ability is a closely guarded secret, the nugget, he wants to know where she found it. They both realize that she tracked the deer to their neighbor’s land, the McCauley’s. Even though they need it, the McCauleys’ are worse off than they are and it rightfully belongs to them. With her father ill, he hasn’t been able to take what gold dust they have hidden to the mint in Charlotte to exchange. They don’t want to draw suspicion in the town of Dahlongea. Her father tells her that he will take the nugget back to the McCauleys.

At school the next morning, Jefferson McCauley shows her a newspaper clipping from a month earlier where President Polk announced to Congress that gold had been discovered in California. Leah notices that he has the same look in his eyes that must be in hers. She thinks that life might be better if her family started over and her abilities could go unnoticed. Jefferson is ready to go but the money for the supplies to cross the country is exorbitant. He tells Leah that he only comes to school to see her and he knows that she works his family’s claim just like he works his for his drunken father. He asks her to go west with him as either his wife or they could pose as siblings. It could be their one chance but Leah shakes her head. Unlike Jefferson whose Indian mother left his father and went to the Oklahoma territory, she loves her family. Even if her father wants to go, her mother would talk him out of it because of his illness. After spending the day in a daze, pondering her future, Leah heads home and decides to talk things through with her parents.

On the ride home, Leah hears two gunshots in the distance. At home, she discovers her father shot dead on the porch. He has a small caliber bullet hole like from a Colt between his eyes. Remembering hearing two shots, she beings to look for her mother. Finding her nowhere, she uses her sense to locate her mother’s gold locket. Leah finds her shot behind the barn. She is barely alive. She whispers that they were wrong to be alone. Leah needs to trust someone. Her mother tells Leah to run just before she dies. She hears something in the woods and knows that she must go to the McCauleys’. She grabs her mother’s locket and heads to the house, grabbing the pistol. Jefferson comes back with her to make sure it is safe. Now that the rush of panic has died down, Leah realizes that her family’s stash of gold is no longer calling out to her. Inside the house, Jefferson helps her right the table and chairs and Leah confesses that their stash of gold that is missing. He is hurt that she didn’t believe she could trust him. Then Leah hands him the nugget she found on his place the night before. He pockets it. Jefferson wants her to find a safe place in town to stay but she refuses to leave her home.

Before her parents’ funeral service begins, Jefferson comes back to see her. He asks her to sell the home place and go west to the goldfields with him. He sold the nugget and bought his way onto a wagon train. Leah comes up with several excuses; the funeral, cleaning up and settling the estate. Jefferson says that he will wait for her in Independence, Missouri. As he leaves, he comments that he has been waiting his whole life for her to come around but he cannot wait forever. After the funeral in which the Reverend preaches a sermon on how “the love of gold is the root of all evil”, Mr. McCauley is the first to speak to Leah. He wants to know if she has seen Jefferson. She sees the advertisement in his hand that everyone was talking about during the funeral. It states that the Pacific Mail Steamship Company will take passengers to California for $200. in the spring. Remembering the bruises on Jefferson’s face, Leah lies to him, saying that if he left now he could possibly catch up with him in Savannah. Her father’s friend, Free Jim, informs her that her Uncle Hiram has settled the family’s debts with him. Hiram, her father’s brother and a lawyer who lives in the capital, walks forward in his fancy clothes. Leah notices that he has a shiny new Colt pistol on his hip. What really sets off the alarms in her head is the fact that she can sense traces of gold dust on him. Thinking back to how she found her father and her mother’s words, Leah suspects that Hiram killed her parents.

After everyone leaves, Leah is left alone with Hiram. He treats her as if he is the man of house, wanting her to pull off his boots and cook his meals. The situation darkens when he informs her that he is her guardian now and that her father’s will left everything to him. Hiram is moving into the house. Leah knows that he cheated his own brother. He has big plans for her, including sending her to finishing school and making a proper lady out of her. When Hiram tells Leah that her father has told him about her abilities, she realizes that he killed his own brother to get to her. Heading out to the barn seeking comfort from her horse, Leah formulates a plan to meet up with Jefferson in Independence. She knows that she will have to disguise herself as a boy and wait for the right time.

How does Leah escape Hiram and Dahlongea? What obstacles does she encounter along the way? Who does she meet up within Independence? What happens when Jefferson discovers Leah’s ability? Is Jefferson really in love with her or just after her abilities? Will Hiram be able to catch up with Leah? Did he kill his brother?

A mix of fantasy and historical fiction, Dahlongea, Georgia is the sight of the first major gold rush in the United States, Walk on Earth a Stranger, is the first book in a trilogy.

Visit Rae Carson’s website

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