In a prologue the author explains how her fact-fiction book is based on her great-great grandfather's 1849 Gold Rush letters.
Against his parents' wishes, Eugene Chase makes plans with boyhood friend Leal to leave Vermont and seek their fortunes in California. Eugene's sister Hortense understands her oldest brother's desire; and she makes him promise to write letters home, addressed to her.
In March 1849, at nineteen, Eugene leaves home for New York City. Leal is to meet him in St. Louis. Eugene's Uncle Lucien, who left Derby Line eight years earlier, lends his nephew the money for his adventure. "The fruits of your journey will reveal themselves in time," he tells Eugene.
From beginning to end, Eugene's journey is long and hard: a journey to a new land and adulthood. Throughout constant difficulties, Eugene shows courage and endurance. This is not true of Leal, who is a burden to all in their Pioneer Line company, which includes Judd, an older doctor. Eventually, Judd asks Eugene to join him for the final 200 miles to California. At the Carson River, after crossing forty miles of treacherous desert, the two men leave the company, then later mine gold together. But the travel West and gold mining leave Judd in weakened health. He leaves for the East, and Eugene heads farther north for richer gold fields.
In a epilogue, the author recounts that her great-great grandfather earned enough money to pay his passage home by sea, to net a clear one thousand dollars, and to build a fine house in Derby Line, Vermont.
About the Author
Gail Wilson Kenna, a college professor, taught in Germany, Malaysia, Venezuela, Colombia, and throughout the USA. As the author of four books, her many writing awards include the Donald Axinn fiction award to the Bread Loaf writers' conference. Gail has served as the Creative Nonfiction judge for the Soul-Making Keats literary awards in San Francisco since 2017. Besides teaching the past fifteen years for a Virginia community college, her new LLC, Crosshill Creek Publications, offers editing and instruction services. An active alum of University of Southern California, she earned her M.A. through a European program in 1982, and later took summer writing courses at Oxford University. The spouse of a retired Air Force officer, Gail and her husband reside on a creek of Virginia's Chesapeake Bay.
This book is fictionalized biography based on letters written by the author's great-great grandfather when he crossed the country to look for gold in 1849...Throughout the narrative, the author has interspersed segments of Eugene Chase's letters. Black and white drawings add atmosphere to this beautifully written story, remarkable for its low reading level and its excellent development of the main character.
Reader Development Program
Free Library of Philadelphia
I loved teaching this book for the personal and intimate discussions it drew, and for the historical and geographical content it offers. Eugene Chase's determination to pursue his dream, to forge ahead and overcome obstacles, result in a powerful story. It moved my students to write their own stories of leaving home to follow a dream. I will use "Here, There and Back Again" in future classes with confidence and pleasure.
ESL Adult Education