HUGE thanks to Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings!
Leah, otherwise known as Lee, has the ability to sense gold. This is obviously handy during the gold rush. Her family lives in Georgia after the Georgia Gold Rush. Her uncle comes to town and kills her father and mother and steals their stash of gold (he was always jealous of her father). To escape her uncle’s guardianship, Lee runs off to get to California since the California rush has just been announced. She travels the whole book as a boy. She is robbed early on, but finds her friend Jefferson and joins a wagon train heading to California. Lots of people die, a baby is born, everyone bonds and eventually they make it. Right when they make it to California, Lee’s uncle finds them and tries to grab her back (he knows about her gold sensing and wants to use her power), but her friends from the wagon train defend her and he goes on his way for now.
what went down
- Leah, Lee, has the power to sense gold and lives with her parents on a homestead in Georgia
- Her father is sick and not getting better, probably miner’s lung
- They have a stash of gold but haven’t been able to cash it without looking suspicious
- Jefferson is Lee’s best friend and is half Cherokee
- Lee’s a great shot and does most of the work around the farm since her dad can’t
- Lee’s magic is secret outside her family to keep her safe, even from Jefferson
- Right at the beginning she finds a gold nugget on Jeff’s land while hunting
- The California gold rush is announced
- Jeff’s dad is an abusive alcoholic and his mother isn’t in the picture
- Jeff decides to go west and asks Lee to come with, he asks if she wants to marry him to make traveling west easier
- Lee’s parents are murdered and the gold dust stash stolen from under the floorboards
- Lee’s uncle Hiram comes to the funeral and claims the will gives him all the property and Lee as his ward
- Free Jim is a freed slave who runs the general store and has always been nice to Lee’s family
- Hiram has a matching pistol and gold dust on him so Lee realizes he killed her parents
- Hiram is horrible and controlling so Lee makes a plan to run away and catch up with Jeff
- Lee gets help from Jim and alters her father’s clothes and cuts her hair, then runs away with her horse Peony
- Lee makes good time at first and finds out Hiram is following false trails she and Jim lef
- Lots of people help Lee out by giving her food in exchange for work on the road
- Lee gets robbed by three brothers who steal her father’s rifle and money
- Lee gets work on a flatboat and sails with the Joyner family on the Tennessee river
- Lee gets her period for the first time, awkward! She’s able to hide it though
- One of the men from home is looking for Peony in the town Lee stops in
- Lee gets to Independence where she was supposed to meet Jeff. She can’t find him for weeks, leaves a note at the post office and then finds him with the Joyner’s wagon group
- The wagon group heads west! Some get cholera and measles
- They find a dug up grave and Mr. Joyner decides to leave measles-ridden blankets in the grave for whoever digs it up next; he thinks it’s Native Americans because racism
- The wagon train gets smaller as groups get cholera or otherwise are left behind; the college boys’ cow almost drowns and they stay behind to let it recover
- Mrs. Joyner is pregnant!
- Lee gives a locket to the younger Joyner, Andy, so she can always find him with her gold sense
- They encounter a buffalo stampede that tramples Major (leader of the train) and his leg has to be amputated; it also kills the milk cow, sad
- Reverend’s wife dies in childbirth because he didn’t get help
- Native American group comes through to trade and isn’t received well
- A group of the men from the wagon train goes to hunt the buffalo and kill way too many and just take the tongues and humps to eat, leaving the rest to rot
- Andy goes missing but eventually Lee finds him
- Lee makes nice with the Hoffmans since Jeff is sweet on the girl
- The college men are gay and hint that they know Lee has a secret too
- Lee saves a little girl from being run over but her leg is cut from hip to knee and has to be stitched so everyone finds out she’s a girl
- Turns out most knew already
- Mr. Joyner is run over by a wagon trying to save some piece of furniture
- The Reverend proposes to Lee and she says “Hell NO!”
- Lee finds out Hampton, the escaped slave, has been stealing food; Lee decides to let him go
- The Robichaud family splits off to go to Oregon.
- The college men and the Joyners combine oxen to survive the desert
- Mrs. Joyner goes into labor right before the desert and everyone leaves them behind.
- Mrs. Joyner has a baby girl but won’t name it
- Therese Hoffman runs back to the Joyner’s because they ran into problems, but she dies of heat stroke as soon as she reaches them
- Andy gives Lee’s locket to Mr. Hoffman to give him strength.
- They make it to the edge of California
- Lee finally tells Jeff she has magic but he knew all along
- They reach Sutter’s Fort, their destination
- Uncle Hiram finds them because he recognizes Peony, but everyone from the wagon train stands with Lee and makes him back down. He’s not satisfied though and will definitely be coming back next book!
how did it end?
The ending is a bit anticlimactic since really they just push through the desert, find the Hoffmans, Therese dies, but everyone else makes it, and then they are at the fort and the book is done. Lee tells Jeff about her gold sense, but he knew all along. Hiram is at the fort and finds them, but Lee’s friends stand with her and claim her as their own and scare him off. There is a sweet bit about found family being more important than blood family though!
Gold sense/witchy – Lee’s term for her ability to find gold that is nearby