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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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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Gripping, without relying on the macabre alone.

Beautifully written. Evokes the accute sense of hopelessness and despair, following crushingly on the heals of optimism and the anticipation of a new and prosperous life.

1 person found this helpful

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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.

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Really interesting

Loved this book. I knew a wee bit about the Donner party and what happened but this book told me everything I needed to know. It’s warts and all. Good backgrounds are given on those who started out and either survived or perished, the journey it’s self is covered in full detail. The mistakes made - and in my opinion there were many made - are gone into and who made them.

The lives these people had were hard at the best of times but the suffering they indured while crossing and being stranded on the sierra mountains were unbelievable. The cowards and the brave , the weak and the strong are identified and their stories are told….

A wonderful book which is narrated brilliantly and in some parts the people involved tell their story through letters and diaries. Each are given a distinctive voice. At the end the author writes about what happened to the survivors after the incident.

Worth a credit. Will re listen to make sure I didn’t miss a single thing.

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superb

loved it, gripping and so sad, incredible detail for me, I hadn't read much about the Donner Party beyond general knowledge and the Wikipedia page! fully recommend it

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SO Much Detail

My own g.grandparents crossed the plains and settled in Arizona. And i have grown up 'knowing' of the Donner Party. But i had _no idea_ of what life for the pioneers actually was, nor the horror of what actually happened in Dinner Pass, nor what was happening elsewhere in the USA and world at the same time. This is a terrific book.

If you are interested in this period of history or specifically in the Donner Party, this book comes highly recommended by me!

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  • K
  • 01-09-20

Truly Humbled!

A retelling of an amazing feat of human endurance. This is definitely the best I have read so far on the tragic story of the Donner Party. Highly recommend.

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  • 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.

50 people found this helpful

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  • k8fowler
  • 16-07-20

Great story, horrible narrator

The book is amazing and engrossing but the narrator is horribly wooden. It hard to listen to.

19 people 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

16 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-02-20

Hard to listen to.

The tale seems to be one I really want to hear. However, I am fighting to listen to it for extended time frames. I love listening while working, riding, and the like. But I fear I will get drowsy during this book. If monotone and dry is your thing then this is for you. If lively and energetic is your style then look for another book. Purchase is regretted.

12 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.

24 people found this helpful

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  • H.Smith
  • 07-09-20

Gut wrenching, detailed history written wonderfully

I enjoyed this book very much. Daniel James Brown is a wonderful author, meticulous in detail and great at keeping interest and pacing. I loved learning about not only the members of the Donner Party but also the 1840’s as a whole, as well as the other survival stories and medical conditions they can conjure.

The narration was the only negative. I listen to a lot of audiobooks and this one was difficult. The narrator is very robotic and at times distracting.

Don’t let this stop you though, this book is well worth a listen/read.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Kim Hall
  • 18-04-20

Almost 5 stars

I would have given this 5 stars in all categories but when you don’t pronounce the names of cities correctly, over and over, I could look/listen past it. I live in one of the valleys they crossed and just do that little bit more research to pronounce things right!!!

5 people found this helpful

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  • divinepossum
  • 06-05-20

Great Historical Deep-Dive

I've always been fascinated by survival stories & The Donner Party is certainly one of the most well known & notorious cases in American History. This book takes a deep dive into the details of what the Immigrants experienced while setting the background in the context of the times they took place. This was a way more personal look at what life was like going West & I'd definitely recommend it for anyone w/an interest in great stories.
This isn't a historical snooze-fest. The author makes the content digestible (no puns intended) for all listeners to get into. I'd been wanting to read this book for a long time & it's lived up to the hype.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Roberta
  • 21-02-21

Gruesome with all the details

Wish I had not read it. The details of starvation and what it does to the human body as well as the details of the way bodies were slaughtered as read by the flattest voice you can imagine was a horror all by itself

3 people found this helpful

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  • garyt
  • 17-07-20

great book hard to stop reading

great book but so sad
amazing what people went through in the that time of history

2 people found this helpful