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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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  • Susie
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 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.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 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.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Debbie
  • Toney, Alabama
  • 02-23-15

From China to San Francisco to Idaho TRUE GRIT

Excellent historical fiction based on the life of a young Chinese woman sold into slavery by her own father. This story of Lalu Nathoy, later renamed Polly, who was sold to bandits, then sold to a madam, and sent to America is a true story. Poor decisions made by her father and broken promises never forgotten by Lalu, nevertheless did not break her spirit. And she continued to fight for her own freedom in a new and confusing land. She found love and security with Charlie Bemis at a time in American history that the Chinese people were not valued (late 1800s, early 1900s) or given the right to own property. And her gentle, healing care became known throughout the entire region as she was sought out by neighbors and townspeople when they were ill. I would love to visit central Idaho and the Salmon River where she and Charlie made their home. It's a National Historic Landmark now where Polly Bemis is honored as a pioneer among American women.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Richard
  • Lockport, NY, United States
  • 03-24-14

Stunningly excellent both story and narration

I did not have high expectations when I ordered this book, but i was seriously mistaken. This may be the one of the best stories I have read in years, and it is wonderfully narrated.
It is not often that passages can move me to tears or fury, but McCunn pulls you in. She paints a wonderful canvas of time, place and person.
This is truly a masterful piece of writing. Enjoy it as I did.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Worth the Listen

What made the experience of listening to Thousand Pieces of Gold the most enjoyable?

The narrator was very good and believable.

What did you like best about this story?

How real it all sounded

Which character – as performed by Emily Zeller – was your favorite?

They were all performed very very well

Who was the most memorable character of Thousand Pieces of Gold and why?

Polly....that no matter what, she never gave up making the most of her life

Any additional comments?

I enjoyed this book very much, although in places it is sad, but through it all you have the unshakable spirit of the main character.This book is a biography but far from dry.It has been written with compassion, and spirit, and the narrator has managed to convey that perfectly.I can highly recommend this book.Well worth the listen

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Not what I remembered from high school

I do not remember feeling as sad or upset about this book when I read it in high school. Rereading it after so many years was like reading it for the first time. I was frustrated and upset by so many of the hardships that Lalu went through and then, when she changed her name to Polly. I remember the romance between Charlie and Polly as being stronger, but I might be mixing it up with the film version. The ending was sad. I had to listen to something happy because Polly did not even get her final wish granted. I do not see why she was never moved to be with Charlie after all this time. There was a lot to this story, and I will read it again to see what other nuances I pick up from the third reading. It should be paired with historical books about this era to help understand the inequalities that Polly experienced.

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  • David
  • Northern, Virginia
  • 05-19-16

Interesting Biography

The storyline kept my interest all the way through. What was left unanswered for me was how Polly's story came to be known and who captured it? Had she kept a diary? Was it piece mealed from various sources based on oral histories?

I'd recommend this.

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  • Saman
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 05-19-16

A fascinating story …

I very much enjoyed this listen.

This historical novel has all of the fascinating elements to draw a reader into another world and time. The author details a harrowing life story beginning at a backward rural Chinese village to an ending in an idyllic Idaho cabin. In between, we experience a life of a strong willed woman, Polly Bemis, who navigates an arduous and perilous journey through continents whilst enduring slavery, shame, violence and servitude.

The real life of Polly Bemis is less well known today and some facts are lost to prejudice and history. But it is easy to immerse oneself in this wonderfully story and experience her life in the old rugged west. Even though this is a novel, it still does justice to her life and legacy and I am glad I got to listen to it. Recommended!

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I liked it

It was the story of a woman on adv amazing adventure called life. Thankfully most won't have such a life, but the author definitely kept my interest. Recommend.

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A Rebel in her Time

Thousand Pieces of Gold, a middle class farmer's daughter in the China of the old days has her mother unbind her feet so she had help her father in the fields to avoid being sold away from the family, She bucks society at sever other crossroads and lives a life that is all her own and an example for many -- yes even in today's generation. As the author and reader re-create the crisp, clipped language and mannerisms typical of Chinese of the time, there is a coolness to the character -- an image well created and one that doesn't warm until the book is nearly ended. This is a great listen for a rainy afternoon and evening. Cuddle up with a quilt and a fire and the cat and get cozy and get to know this great, but simple woman.