A father and son try their luck at gold prospecting in Dorris’ historical account of mining camps in Idaho Territory.
Charles Chambers and his son, Samuel, leave their family and home in Iowa with the hopes of striking it rich out West in Idaho Territory. After a rough journey, they arrive in the bustling mining town of Washington. The camp is a place unlike any the pair has ever seen, full of Chinese miners, Civil War veterans, grizzled prospectors and many other larger-than-life personalities. Washington is a place that still carries the scars of the Civil War, full of racial prejudice and men who will do anything to get rich. The numerous Chinese miners in the camp suffer especially, with both Samuel and Charles witnessing numerous acts of harassment and violence against the community. The harsh reality of the camp soon sets in, and it becomes clear striking it rich will be more difficult than they anticipated. Soon, the debate is no longer how big their strike will be but whether they can last through the winter in camp. Dorris’ story sheds light on the years immediately after the Civil War—an era that is forgotten in most modern accounts—when the country was still recovering from the trauma of the conflict. The tale is more of a tour through the historical place and time rather than a narrative, giving excellent insight into what it took to hunt for gold out West and the conditions in camps. The writing is consistent and evenly paced, even if the action is sometimes slow. Dorris is willing to take time in his writing to explain things to the fullest detail, which benefits the setting, but ends up hindering the development of characters. This approach leaves Charles and Samuel in the background and keeps the reader from every fully connecting with the pair’s trials and tribulations in Idaho.
A quest for gold that will take readers on an enlightening tour of the 1870s West.