Embracing the Elephant by Lori Hart Beninger

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“There will be hunger and there will be cold. You will encounter wild animals and wilder men. In this rugged terrain, the slightest misstep could mean injury or death to either of us.”

Undeterred by the most dire warnings, in 1848 eleven-year-old Guinevere Walker embarks on a perilous journey to reunite with her widowed father. From her home in Boston she sails to Rio de Janeiro, around Cape Horn, to the rudimentary town of San Francisco -- ultimately arriving at the California mountain range called the Sierra Nevada, known for both its beauty and brutality.

As Guine and her father struggle to forge a new relationship, they confront the most massive human migration the world has ever known: the California Gold Rush. Hundreds of thousands of fortune hunters from around the globe flood into the burgeoning territory to “See the Elephant” – to experience a great adventure, dig for a golden fortune, face the harshest realities, and search for their own personal truths.

Embracing the Elephant is a powerful story about one child coming of age at precisely the moment a nation enters its own new age. It is a tale of fierce determination, resilience, discovery, and best of all: hope.


Embracing the Elephant is a coming of age story for both a girl and a nation, a book about the breathtaking highs and devastating lows that accompany – and in turn fuel – massive change. It is a raw and compelling novel for anyone facing, or embracing, a journey of their own.

In 1848, a treaty with Mexico makes California a U.S. possession and the United States finally spans the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Technology is advancing at an astonishing rate, and relative nobodies are amassing speculative fortunes. The ink on the Mexican treaty is not yet dry when gold is discovered in the remote mountain range known as the Sierra Nevada – the Gold Rush is on and The West is under siege by fortune hunters and settlers of all stripes.

On the East coast, young Guinevere Walker begins her own westward trek to the wild territory of California -- not for gold, but for love of her estranged and distant father, still struggling with the death of Guine’s mother. Her journey is set against the backdrop of a country plagued by ineffective government officials, a growing disparity between the classes, anti-immigration sentiments, and harsh racial and religious divides.

With civility in short supply and wilderness in the hearts of men, Guine learns who to trust, how to adapt and ultimately that survival comes from within.

About Lori Hart Beninger

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Published August 20, 2012 by On Track Publishing. 384 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Embracing the Elephant

Publishers Weekly

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This circuitous novel opens in 1848, as 11-year-old Guine boards an East Coast ship bound for San Francisco to join her widowed father. It's an arduous journey for Guine and may prove slow going for r

Jan 07 2013 | Read Full Review of Embracing the Elephant

ForeWord Reviews

She says, for example, “Tempted at first to deny my absence, I demurred,” and, “I envision the Reverend … bursting in to admonish me,” and “I do not want … [to] be reminded of my transgression.” Guine’s language, however, is both historically accurate and appropriate for a precocious and well-rea...

Aug 24 2012 | Read Full Review of Embracing the Elephant

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