Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Seeds of Hope: The Gold Rush Diary of Susanna Fairchild, California Territory 18

Seeds of Hope: The Gold Rush Diary of Susanna Fairchild, California Territory 18

Kristiana Gregory
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 10 and up
Scholastic, 2001   ISBN: 978-0590511575

Susanna and her sister Clara can hardly believe what has become of their lives. It all began when her parents decided to immigrate to Oregon where Susanna’s father would set up a new doctor’s practice. In Oregon they would be living near some of their relatives and they could build a new life for themselves. Then, on the journey to Oregon the family suffers a great loss when Susanna’s mother is lost overboard. It is as if the heart had gone out of their little family. Now Dr. Fairchild has decided that he is going to go and try his luck in the California gold fields instead of going to Oregon.

Susanna and Clara cannot bear being separated from their father so they decide to accompany him on this adventure, hopeful that the "gold fever" will run its course and that he will be able to find enough gold so that they can afford a new home and a new life in Oregon, for, with Mother went all the family’s savings, down into the deep and dark ocean.

Now Clara and Susanna have a very different sort of life from what they are used to. They have to deal with the threat of being robbed, of grizzly bears attacking them, and with the rigors of living in a place that has few comforts. Even though they have so little Clara and Susanna are always willing to share what little they have with those who are less fortunate than they are. In times of hardship and trouble the girls and the friends they make pull together to help one another. In addition the two young women learn that they are much stronger and resourceful than they ever thought they could be, that they are able to rise to any challenge that is thrown at them.

It is extraordinary to read about how the Gold Rush turned otherwise perfectly sensible people into men and women with very little sense at all. Susanna’s father turns away from his skill as a doctor to find gold and in the end all he really finds is that gold is corrupting; it can make one’s dearest friend into ones enemy, and it can make one forget ones family and loved ones. Christiana Gregory captures the madness that lay at the root of the California Gold Rush and shows us how despite it all, the love and courage of two girls prevailed.