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Book Review

The Adventures of Pearley Monroe by Marci Seither has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting [magazine] (https://store.focusonthefamily.com/goaa-thriving "magazine").

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In 1870, Miss Nancy waits anxiously on a train platform for her son Andrew to arrive. Twenty-one years earlier, 3-year-old Andrew was sold while Nancy and her husband, Peter, were forced to leave Missouri and travel to California with their owner to mine for gold.

After California entered the Union later in 1850 as a free state, they were freed. Nancy and Peter worked hard for people around Coloma, California, until they could buy a farm. They never stopped saving money to buy their son’s freedom. Peter died before this happened, but Nancy is finally able to send for Andrew, his wife, Sarah Ellen, and their two young sons — 3-year-old Pearley and 2-year-old Grant. (Though the Emancipation Proclamation freed this family by 1863, they had become sharecroppers to survive. Miss Nancy had to pay off their sharecropping debts in order for them to be able to travel to California.) They are reunited with her family at last.

Ten years later, Pearley’s family has settled into life in Coloma, and the family now includes a younger sister and brother — Cordelia and Clay — and there is another sibling on the way. While playing in the river, Grant almost drowns, but Pearley and an old miner named Mr. Stone help pull him out of the water. Mr. Stone, the miner who is the subject of gossip and speculation by the town’s people, resuscitates Grant and saves his life.

While his friends are afraid of Mr. Stone, Pearley finds out that the old man was a part of the team that rescued the Donner Party, and he is alone because he tragically lost his family. When Pearley sees Mr. Stone again, he thanks him for saving Grant. Pearley learns that he shouldn’t believe everything he hears.

While the family is delivering produce to a cookhouse outside of a mine, an explosion occurs, startling the family horse and causing the wagon to knock over Sarah Ellen. Sarah Ellen goes into premature labor, delivering baby Rose, who only lives for a few hours.

Pearley, consumed with grief, tells Andrew that he hates the miners and won’t ever forgive them for Rose’s death. Andrew tenderly tells Pearley that men don’t get better by being bitter. Andrew also tells Pearley that he must put his sadness into God’s hands because human hands are just too small for that much grief. Pearly realizes that life isn’t always fair, but he knows Rose was loved — even if it was just for a few hours.

While in town working as a stable boy, Pearley sees a family arrive from Boston. While the mother of the family is very beautiful, Elizabeth Barnsworth is rude to the cook’s grandson, Chen Ho. She tells her daughter, Luella, that Chen can’t be very intelligent because he is Chinese.

When her jewelry goes missing, she accuses Chen of the theft, and the boy is arrested. Pearley knows his friend is innocent and is determined to prove it. He waits outside the hotel during the night and sees the real thief, a racoon, go through the Barnsworths’ window to steal more.

The stolen jewelry is recovered from the racoon’s hiding spot; Chen is released; and Barnsworth is apologetic. While Pearley thought Barnsworth was beautiful before, seeing her behaving with humility shows him that she is beautiful on the inside as well.

On a morning Pearley plans to go fishing with his friends, his mother tells him he must take Cordelia berry picking. Pearley is upset about the change of plans but does as he is asked. After a successful morning picking berries, Pearley and Cordelia see a bear and try to outrun it, falling into an abandoned mine in the process.

Pearley twists his ankle and the walls are too high to climb out. He and Cordelia slowly make their way through the mine to get to the end of the tunnel. They reach the end and find a Maidu settlement where they get food and help. The Maidu take the children home to their grateful parents.

After Pearley’s leg heals, he and his father are called on to help dig the grave for James Marshall, the man who first spotted gold in Coloma and sparked the California gold rush. With all the people in Pearley’s life gathered for the funeral, he realizes he has found the greatest treasure — not gold, but the love of family, freedom and the courage to persevere.

Christian Beliefs

The Monroe family attends a Methodist church for Sunday morning services. When Grant almost drowns, Andrew feared that the Lord has taken his son home. At Rose’s funeral, the preacher recites passages of Scripture. While Peter was never reunited with his son Andrew, in a letter, Peter says he will wait for Andrew at the pearly gates. Pearley is named after this reference in his father’s letter.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

The Monroe children are happy, respectful and helpful to their family and friends. Pearley has a close, loving relationship with his parents and grandmother. He shares his feelings and fears with his father, and in turn, Andrew provides Pearley with encouragement and wise council.

Elizabeth Barnsworth is rude to the people she feels are beneath her, much to the embarrassment of her husband and daughter. When she realizes she wrongly accused Chen of stealing her jewelry, she humbly apologizes to him.


Pearley’s brother gets swept away by a river and bumps his head. Pearley injures his leg when he runs along the riverbank to rescue his brother. An explosion at a mine injures several workers and causes the Monroe family’s horse to startle, upsetting the wagon. This knocks over Pearley’s pregnant mother, causing baby Rose to be born premature. She only lives for a few hours.

Chen falls while being chased by the sheriff and cuts his lip. Cordelia cuts her leg while being chased by a bear, and she and Pearly fall into an abandoned mine. He twists his ankle. Two men engage in a shooting contest before the sheriff takes their guns away. Blood is depicted in scenes involving cuts.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at [FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books] (https://focusonthefamily.webconnex.com/co-tfbdq "FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books").

Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 14


Marci Seither






Record Label



Sawmill Press


On Video

Year Published





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