Title: Walk On Earth A Stranger
Author: Rae Carson
Published by: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: September 22, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Western, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
Summary from Goodreads:
Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.
Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.
She also has a secret.
Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.
When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.
The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.
When I started this book, I remembered that I’ve already read a series by Rae Carson. I enjoyed her Fire and Thorns trilogy a few years ago and recommend it for everyone 12 and older. I like that Carson develops realistic relationships between her characters, both in friendship and romance. Her romantic developments might be a little too slow moving for some, but I find the simmering approach charming, delighting in every small, secret smile.
Walk on Earth a Stranger is a fantastical western based in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. The story follows a young girl forced to trek across young America on her own, hoping to reunite with her best friend, Jefferson. It’s the Oregon Trail (Oh no, you died of Cholera! You've killed an offensive amount of bison and cannot carry all that meat, leave it behind for scavengers. Ford the river! Talulla suffered a snakebite [lose 3 days]) featuring a magical girl who can sense gold—Leah (Lee).
Lee has to keep her gift a secret, because humanity is a greedy, selfish breed, and she doesn’t want to be used. Lee is already capable and hard working, but she grows into a woman and her strengths along the way. Lee wants to be herself (a stall-mucking, sharp shooting, gold miner) in a time when being a woman means a genteel upbringing, more owned than respected. When it comes to Lee’s gift, she must choose to continue to walk the Earth a stranger, or join a family of her own making—learning to trust. One thing I loved about Lee is that she continually tries to do right by people, even when she doesn’t like them. She’s extraordinarily gracious.
Lee’s magical powers took a back seat to the character development in the story. As the series continues, her gold sense will surely cause conflict, and this first installment had to get the characters to California, where the gold drama will continue.
Would I let my teen read this book?
Rae Carson touches on many social issues of the time in a natural way. Everything from slavery, sexism, immigration, homosexuality, and Native American prejudices is woven into the storytelling and is also where community is born within the group of travelers. The social outcasts aren’t the strongest group, but they band together in a lasting, meaningful way.
Carson writes about spiritual and religious themes in both of her series’ too. Walk the Earth features several groups of people with religious backgrounds whose faith lacks compassion; it’s a self-righteous faith.
All of these themes are interesting to explore and worth discussing. I recommend this book for everyone 12 and older.
Age recommendation: 12
Language – none
Drugs & Alcohol – none
Sex – none
Violence – Lee’s parents are murdered; several characters are trampled or run over; one character’s leg is amputated; there’s a few non-graphic birth scenes; Lee gets her period (not violent at all but seems worth mentioning for possible young readers)
My Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I read a lot. I'm a Mom. I'm officially in my 30s, but strangers often don't believe I'm old enough to drink. I love Young Adult fiction, and thought it was worthwhile to help teens and adults find age-appropriate options.