About half way through Walk on Earth a Stranger, I realized I was having a hard time with the story. It is solidly written but I found I wasn’t interested in the characters or even the story. For the most part, it was very contradictory (people did one thing one day – and then something completely different the next) and I began to feel like author Carson had researched a lot on the subject and then put in every anecdote or tidbit she could find. As such, it became a loosely assembled collection of ‘happenings’ that were of significant historical interest but not necessary relevant to our characters or for character buildings. There was just too much and yet not enough and so this didn’t hold my interest as much as I had hoped.
Story: Leah can sense gold – whether in the ground or in someone’s pocke twatch. It’s a skill her mother has cautioned her to hide carefully; especially since her gold mining parents have earned the nickname ‘lucky’ due to their past gold finds. When her Uncle comes to town and her parents are murdered, it’s clear he knows her secret and wants it for himself. So she decides to pull up stakes and head for California from the East. She’ll disguise herself as a boy and follow the footsteps of best friend Jefferson – who headed out earlier in order to escape an abusive father. This is the story of that journey as Leah runs from her Uncle’s machinations.
I was frustrated in the beginning by the contradictions. E.g., Jefferson leaves and she says she won’t go with him despite the death of her parents – and then does it anyway the next day. That type of situation happened again and again throughout the book. It made a rather thinly described character even more inscrutable and honestly frustrating.
But mostly, for me at least, was the overly familiar aspects of the story. So many scenes I can remember reading about in elementary and junior high school history classes (perhaps because I went to school in California that the subject came up often). So I’d already known which scenes happened where historically – from offering measles/chicken pox infected blankets to Indians (who had no resistance) to the danger of bison stampedes. There wasn’t a lot new for me and so the book felt very cobbled together – as if someone wrote notes about actual events and the figured out a way to have a character experience it instead. It hurt the pace of the story and certainly the diversity of events didn’t help build/develop characters.
At 400+ pages, this is surprisingly long. I wish I liked Leah/Lee more (or even love interest Jefferson) so that I wanted to follow them. Honestly, some of the side characters ended up being a lot more interesting by the end. But this is by no means a terrible book and those with no knowledge of the California Gold Rush will likely find the historical aspects fascinating. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.