The Compulsive Reader: Walk On Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Friday, October 9, 2015

Walk On Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Leah Westfall lives with her parents on their farm in Georgia, and is not the average young lady. Due to her father's failing health, she has taken on much of the work of farming and hunting and providing for her family. But Lee also has a secret--she has the ability to sense gold, and the gold she finds has saved her family from destitution more than once. Unfortunately, it's also given her family a "lucky" reputation that has made more than a few people suspicious.

One day Lee comes home to find her father murdered, her family's hidden gold stolen, and her mother telling her to run with her dying breath. Lee is reluctant to leave her family home and everything they've worked for, but it quickly becomes clear that her parents' killer knows about her ability and wants to use her. So Lee follows her best friend Jefferson west to California, where gold has recently been discovered, hoping to find freedom--and gold, of course.

I love this historical novel with a fantasy twist, and the characters in this novel are positively vibrant in Rae Carson's very capable hands. Leah is strong-willed and independent, enlightened and intelligent, but still a product of her own time period. When she's forced to flee, she disguises herself as a boy and works extra hard to avoid suspicion or detection. The lengths she goes to in order to avoid detection are very revealing of the times, and how women were overlooked and viewed as commodities, not people.

Carson has clearly done extensive research to make Lee and Jefferson's journey west vivid and heartbreakingly real, but the story never feels too rigid with extra research or superfluous information. The time period comes across in expressive details and through the perspective and actions of many different characters. Racism and bigotry are very real challenges that the characters face, along with disease, lack of water, exhaustion, and poor health care and treatment of injuries. In some ways, this book feel less like a fantasy novel and more like a very well-written historical fiction novel that just happens to have a fantasy element, but that's okay--the real challenges and injustices of the journey west, and the politics of the group that Lee travels with, are every bit as compelling as Lee's ability to divine gold.

And Carson does lay the groundwork for more action as a result of Lee's ability. She questions where the ability comes from, hints at Lee's obscured family history, and uses Lee's gold-seeking talents to help advance Lee's inner character growth as she learns to trust people with all of her secrets and identifies her own found family.

If I have any complaints, it's that the book ends far too quickly, with Lee and gang arriving in California, a land full of possibility. Luckily for us, this is only the first in a planned trilogy. Unluckily, we might have to wait a while for book two. That's okay, though--Walk on Earth a Stranger is more than worthy of multiple re-reads in the meantime!

Book purchased at my indie.

1 comment:

LinWash said...

I'm glad you reviewed this book. I knew Rae had a new book, but the title slipped my mind. Glad it's worth reading as her other series certainly was!