Review: Seeds of Hope

Seeds of Hope: The Gold Rush Diary of Susanna Fairchild, California Territory, 1849 (Dear America Series)Seeds of Hope
by Kristiana Gregory

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seeds of Hope (California Gold Rush) / 0-590-51157-2

Once again, the Dear America formula has rendered complex and difficult history into an entertaining and personal portrayal. When Susanna's mother dies en route to Oregon, her grieving father turns to gold fever to dull his loss and Susanna and family turn gold miners. In this way, Susanna is able to note carefully the follies of those stricken with gold fever and is able to describe, in detail, how the only people who reliably struck it rich were those who provided services and goods to these fever-struck hopefuls.

My favorite aspect of the Dear America books - their even-handedness - is displayed beautifully here, with Susanna distressed by the fact that immigrants and Mexicans are discriminated against and murdered for their gold claims, with no legal recourse. A fine line is walked with the treatment of the narrator's father - although he is clearly very foolish to run after a goose chase and drag his daughters along after him into danger (they are the only two women in a mining camp of hundreds of lonely men!), nevertheless his love for his daughters is clear and he is portrayed as a good, kind man who learns when enough gold is enough.

Several hangings and murders occur here, including the hanging of a "dancing lady" from town. Although it's abundantly clear that the lady is a local prostitute, the book is careful to define her only as a dancer and entertainer. Children may wonder what money was to be had in dancing on the frontier... Also be aware that the narrator's love interest loses his leg in a mining explosion, and has to have the bone sawed through by her physician father. The scene is rushed through fairly quickly, but may be disturbing for small children.

~ Ana Mardoll

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