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The Indifferent Stars Above

The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party
Narrated by: Michael Prichard
Length: 10 hrs and 55 mins
Categories: History, American
5 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Summary

From the number one best-selling author of The Boys in the Boat comes an unforgettable epic of family, tragedy, and survival on the American frontier.

“An ideal pairing of talent and material.... Engrossing.... A deft and ambitious storyteller.” (Mary Roach, New York Times Book Review)

In April of 1846, 21-year-old Sarah Graves, intent on a better future, set out west from Illinois with her new husband, her parents, and eight siblings. Seven months later, after joining a party of pioneers led by George Donner, they reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains as the first heavy snows of the season closed the pass ahead of them. In early December, starving and desperate, Sarah and 14 others set out for California on snowshoes and over the next 32 days endured almost unfathomable hardships and horrors.

In this gripping narrative, New York Times best-selling author Daniel James Brown sheds new light on one of the most legendary events in American history. Following every painful footstep of Sarah’s journey with the Donner Party, Brown produces a tale both spellbinding and richly informative.

©2009 Daniel James Brown (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Horrific story well told

the author provided a lot of background information into the time and culture these events took place in the context of, but without being dry. His research into starvation, frostbite and the other medical issues that were experienced by the Donner party allowed him to weave a richer story, instead of just reciting a timeline and quoting the few letters and diaries that are available from the members of the party.

1 person found this helpful

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Profile Image for Sasha Anscum
  • Sasha Anscum
  • 07-06-19

Absolutely enthralling

I picked this up after the LPOTL series on the Donner Tragedy, and honestly Henry didn't exaggerate. This book had me deeply enthralled, to the point of nightmares, and the narrators voice lends a serious, heavy air to the whole thing.

18 people found this helpful

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  • david
  • 09-08-19

Incredible story, unbearable narrator.

The narrator sounds like he's a flight attendant reading a PA safety message for the three hundredth time.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Peter
  • 16-09-19

Appalling story told incredibly

At every point where I thought the parties situation couldn't get worse, it did. Incredible work done to give this story the texture and depth that sets it apart!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Eric Leid
  • 23-01-20

good book

awesome story but read by a robot sounding man. he's worse than a robot actually. if you can ignore poor performance it's a gripping account

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-01-20

If you like historical reads - this is fantastic!

I liked the narrator and the way his voice carried the genuine interest and care as if the writer was narration himself.

It brought to life details of a historical event I knew just a fraction about.

I truly enjoyed everything about this book.

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  • RWM
  • 13-01-20

Fantastic book, mediocre performance

The book itself is incredible. A must read, and deserves five stars. It is a jaw-dropping, thoroughly researched tale about one of the most harrowing incidents in the nation’s history. I particularly enjoyed how Brown describes the science of what is going on with the human body under these conditions.

The narration, however, is atrocious, and is a disservice to this wonderful book. The narrator is boring and monotone, and when he occasionally does “voices,” you’ll wish he was just doing the monotone thing again. It’s a shame.

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  • kg2020
  • 09-01-20

American Endurance

this book will help you understand the hardships and challenges families endured coming West in 1846

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Profile Image for Zepharim
  • Zepharim
  • 21-12-19

Compelling Story, Decent Retelling

The story of the Donner party is so interesting that the wikipedia entry reads like a page-turner. So even a mediocre book on the subject would just be a 'missed opportunity' at its worst.
The author of this book attempts to tell the story from the pov of Sarah Graves and supplements the tale with some historical background, a little economic context, and some scientific insights (like the physiological and psychological effects of starvation). Most of this additional material is relevant and helps the reader imagine what the pioneers must have gone through. However, the implementation of said material lacks finesse. Rather than weaving it into the story, the author will just periodically stop to dump information and then pickup where he left off a page or two later, which makes for a disjointed storytelling. The author also makes Howard Zinnesque political comments from time to time that also took me out of the narrative (they might be too subtle to affect most readers).
Ultimately, the read was quick and worthwhile. There are points in the story that are told very well and anyone unfamiliar with the Donner Party will certainly leave with - if nothing else - a newfound appreciation for dinner.
If you're trying to decide on just one book about the Donner Party to pickup, George Stewart's "Ordeal by Hunger" is still my favorite for clarity and immersion.

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  • Kat
  • 21-12-19

Fascinating story and well crafted

The narrator takes some getting used to, but overall and excellent read. Highly recommended, especially if you know California.

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  • John M McMillin
  • 02-12-19

A good if wandering telling

This is a good and faithful retelling of an iconic event. The narrator is good but not great and gives the feeling of having the yarn told to the audience. The narrative path of the book strays, harshly sometimes, and its flow suffered from time to time. But overall I think it is a good book and good retelling of the tale.