In the small settlement of Motherlode, a group of disparate characters have set up a community, held together by the formidable Emaline, hostess of the Wayside Inn. It is there that Alex, on the run from something and disguised as a teenage boy, finds refuge. But once she strikes gold, buried secrets are revealed and danger surrounds her.
“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
"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, No One You Know
“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
“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.”—Washington Times
“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