The gold rush has taken hold of the Wild West. Pioneers from around the country congregate in makeshift settlements like Motherlode in hopes of striking it rich. It’s here that Alex, disguised as a boy and on the run from her troubled past, is able to blend in among the rough and tumble prospectors living on little more than adrenaline and moonshine.
Word spreads quickly when Alex becomes the first in Motherlode to strike gold. Outsiders pour in from wealthy east coast cities, primed to cash in on the discovery. But these opportunists from the outside world have no place in Motherlode and threaten to rip the town—and its residents—apart. Alex must fight to protect her buried secrets—and her life. And against the odds, it’s here, in this lawless outpost, that Alex is finally able to find friendship, redemption, and even love.
“There are subliminal echoes of L. Frank Baum in Volmer’s mythmaking . . . But Volmer keeps whimsy in check with a terse present-tense voice that invests her pioneers piquant inner lives and a poker-faced lyricism.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Carefully researched and meticulously imagined. Volmer has written a new story of the California gold rush that is as believable and transporting as any I have ever read . . . Volmer’s characters are wonderful and the story is tense and engaging. A wonderful read.” —Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
“Any illusions about the glamour of digging for gold are totally shattered by Mary Volmer’s Crown of Dust, a grim and carefully researched book about the California gold rush . . . Volmer, in her remarkable first novel, has re-created the reality of an era that few can even visualize now.” —The Washington Times
“Mary Volmer possesses such fierce powers of description, I could almost feel the dust of Motherlode clinging to the hem of my skirt. In Crown of Dust, Volmer has created an intensely physical and utterly enjoyable novel, filled with unforgettable characters.” —Michelle Richmond, author of The Year of Fog
“Volmer’s distinctive, beautifully written debut is set in the California gold rush country in the mid-19th century . . . [her] prose is taut and restrained, moving the story along at a healthy clip as her hardscrabble characters rumble and stumble through their dusty domain. Volmer’s found a fat vein of gold in some heavily mined territory.” —Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“Volmer paints a moving portrait of outcasts and nonconformists who build their own community . . . evocative historical background and thoughtful social observation make this a promising debut.” —Kirkus Reviews “Volmer’s colorful debut is in many ways a typical Western, heavy on action and subplots involving miners, unions, and strikes . . . fresh and different.” —Library Journal “Volmer’s first novel is a pleasant effort . . . She captures the authenticity of place and the spirit of the period through the greed, exhilaration, disappointment and hope of the characters.” —Booklist