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Publisher's Summary

Lalu Nathoy's father called his thirteen-year-old daughter his treasure, his "thousand pieces of gold," yet when famine strikes northern China in 1871, he is forced to sell her. Polly, as Lalu is later called, is sold to a brothel, sold again to a slave merchant bound for America, auctioned to a saloonkeeper, and offered as a prize in a poker game. This biographical novel is the extraordinary story of one woman's fight for independence and dignity in the American West.
©2004 Ruthann Lum McCunn (P)2013 Audible Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Susie on 04-28-14

A Women's Studies Classic

This historic novel, based on a true story, brings to life the often untold story of a woman’s Chinese immigrant experience.

During a famine, adored daughter, Lalu, is sold into slavery to save the family, re-sold and brought by a madame to America, sold again to gamblers, and then gains her freedom through a benefactor in a poker game.

Let me say this again: this was a true story!

There are many passages describing life in the new world and mining camps that show how brutal and hard life in China, then Idaho was. It would be easy to assume that Lalu, re-named “Polly” was as passive as those thousand pieces of gold she’s compared to, but she’s made of stronger stuff. She’s treated like a commodity, but retains a solid core and determination to find freedom and happiness, which eventually, she does.

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11 of 13 people found this review helpful


By David on 05-01-15

Disjointed account of an extraordinary life

Clearly Lalu (later Polly) Nathoy was an extraordinary woman. Sold into slavery by bandits in China, she survived and ended up thriving in the hostile, alien Idaho frontier at the turn of the last century. Unfortunately this fictionalized account of her life is fragmented and disjointed as well as being somewhat sentimental and less than artful stylistically. Perhaps the author could not find enough reliable material to tell the story with the continuity and depth it deserved and did not want to invent enough to fill in the huge gaps, sometimes of a decade or more. In that case, straight historical reportage would have been preferable to giving us neither the simple facts nor a satisfying story arc. The narrative as is leaves the reader thinking, "Hunh? What happened in between?" The episodes which make up the book are often fascinating; still I would not recommend it, though I would love to read more about the resourceful and inspiring heroine.

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9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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