Book reviews

Western gold rush novel shows harsh reality | Book reviews

“Child in the valley”

A novel by Gordy Sauer

Published by Hub City Press, 286 pages, $ 26

By Dale Singer Post-Dispatch Special

Anyone with an idyllic take on dreamers on trains heading west from Missouri to collect California gold will step out of Gordy Sauer’s atmospheric novel with a whole new take on the 49ers experience.

Told through the eyes of 17-year-old Joshua Gaines, “Child in the Valley” follows his swift baptism as a novice medic in the harsh 19th-century world that teaches tough lessons in real life.

As the novelist Sauer first notes near the end of the book:

“He was made and undone and remade so many times that what he left to hide is an amalgamation of lives, memories and objects that only belong to the actions that forged them, which are themselves non-existent now that he refuses to give them credit in his mind. “

This thoughtful but convoluted sentence shows both the strength and the weakness of the novel.

Gaines heads to western Missouri with five companions: the mysterious Fox; his partner, Free Ray, formerly enslaved; G. Keelboat, an Englishman; and twins Clayton and Klayton. Each has its share of flaws, and their individual destinies unfold as their group encounters difficulties that one by one remove almost any semblance of civilization they have left behind.