Why does Sam come to see Lucy in Sweetwater in How Much of These Hills Is Gold?

Sam goes to visit Lucy in Sweetwater to say goodbye to her. Sam plans to travel across the ocean to China, where their mother was born. Prior to this reunion, the two siblings had been separated for five years. Sam’s arrival in Sweetwater leads Lucy to realize that she belongs with her family, and so she decides to leave Sweetwater with Sam.

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In chapter 24 of How Much of These Hills is Gold, Lucy is informed by her landlady that she has a male visitor. She incorrectly assumes the visitor to be Charles, the fiancé of her close friend Anna, but it turns out to be Sam, her long-lost sister. Lucy quickly finds that Sam has changed, as the latter is dressed in men’s clothing and now adopts a low-pitched voice. While Sam was assigned female at birth, she now dresses more in line with her true identity.

Sam informs Lucy that they plan to go to China, their mother’s birthplace. After the two have dinner together, Sam makes it clear that this may be the last time they are going to see each other. Lucy takes this into deliberation and decides to come along with Sam. Even though Sam tells her that their journey will be arduous, Lucy remains resolute. This is because she feels that her prim and proper life in Sweetwater is disingenuous, and that she belongs on the road with Sam.

All day it’s been stifling hot. Now Lucy perceives a faint breath of wind. A Westerly wind, the kind native to the hills and born at the coast. They might be laid out in the long yellow grass and looking at the stars. The best thing about stars is that you can see in them any shape you want. Make any story. Better, even, when the person beside you doesn’t see them the same way.

Lucy sits up. “Take me on your next adventure.”

Sam’s arrival in Sweetwater is one of the major turning points of the novel, as it is their point of reconciliation after going their separate ways for more than five years. Even though the two are very different from each other, their time apart has shown them that they are bound by blood and shared history. In fact, when Sam frets about Lucy having to leave her belongings in Sweetwater, the latter merely shrugs it off and says, “What makes a family a family?”—one of their old inside jokes.

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