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Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West
     

Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West

4.5 22
by Ethan Rarick
 

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ISBN-10: 0195383311

ISBN-13: 9780195383317

Pub. Date: 07/08/2009

Publisher: Oxford University Press

In late October 1846, the last wagon train of that year's westward migration stopped overnight before resuming its arduous climb over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, unaware that a fearsome storm was gathering force. After months of grueling travel, the 81 men, women and children would be trapped for a brutal winter with little food and only primitive shelter. The

Overview

In late October 1846, the last wagon train of that year's westward migration stopped overnight before resuming its arduous climb over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, unaware that a fearsome storm was gathering force. After months of grueling travel, the 81 men, women and children would be trapped for a brutal winter with little food and only primitive shelter. The conclusion is known: by spring of the next year, the Donner Party was synonymous with the most harrowing extremes of human survival. But until now, the full story of what happened—and what it tells us about human nature and about America's westward expansion—remained shrouded in myth.
Drawing on fresh archeological evidence, recent research on topics ranging from survival rates to snowfall totals, and heartbreaking letters and diaries made public by descendants a century-and-a-half after the tragedy, Ethan Rarick offers an intimate portrait of the Donner party and their unimaginable ordeal: a mother who must divide her family, a little girl who shines with courage, a devoted wife who refuses to abandon her husband, a man who risks his life merely to keep his word. Rarick resists both the gruesomely sensationalist accounts of the Donner party as well as later attempts to turn the survivors into archetypal pioneer heroes. "The Donner Party," Rarick writes, "is a story of hard decisions that were neither heroic nor villainous. Often, the emigrants displayed a more realistic and typically human mixture of generosity and selfishness, an alloy born of necessity."
A fast-paced, heart-wrenching, clear-eyed narrative history, Desperate Passage casts new light on one of America's most horrific encounters between the dream of a better life and the harsh realities such dreams so often must confront.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195383317
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
07/08/2009
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
125,336
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Related Subjects

Table of Contents

List of Characters
Prologue
Journey
Tribulation
Salvation
Author's Note
Acknowledgments
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

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Desperate Passage 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for a true documentary of this event, I would highly recommend this as both extremely interesting as well as based on facts.
AuthorByNight More than 1 year ago
I have read several books why researching events surrounding the Donner Party saga and this one is the best by far. Extremely well written and will keep your interest throughout. This is not a casual book that you will knock out in an evening because it contains so much valuable information and demands your attention. The characters will become more than acquaintances, they will become family. Bravo to the author! Get this book. You will not be sorry.
The-Write-Words More than 1 year ago
I've read a lot about the Donner Party and this is the definitive book on their journey. I especially liked the 'realistic' comparisons as to what these folk went through. Brougt it all home to a reader of this century. Every American should read this book. DebraE
Laura Stevenson More than 1 year ago
This is a great all around book! Wonderfully written with accounts of those who traveled the trail, great book for anyone wanting to learn the truth about the Donner Party and life on the California Trail! Great Book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading several Donner Party books, this is the best so far. Sticks as close to the known facts as possible relying on every source available. Wonderful reading non-fiction for American history buffs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story itself holds the readers interest. The author expresses opinions about white emigrants and America during the 19th century that are intertwined with the facts. I only read history. I can spot opinion over fact easier than most probably, and believe placing opinion next to facts undermines an authors work and credibility as a historian.
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mstrust More than 1 year ago
This book starts off slowly, just as the wagon party forms and begins its journey from Independence, Mo. Rarick takes the reader through the prairie as the Donner Party endures the heat, the loss of livestock, the deaths along the way. Once the party became stuck in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the coldest winter on record, the many deaths occurred one after another, leaving many of the families with just one or two members alive. This is a well-researched book that has the advantage over older versions of this tragedy because of recent testings of bones found at the campsite. Rarick also goes beyond the events that made the party famous and gives accounts of what happened to the survivors years and even decades after.
Lilo02 More than 1 year ago
I've learned very little about the Donner Party through out my school years. In fact all I knew about it was that they were a large wagon party that split somewhere in the Midwest and the half that went more the southern straight route were struck by cannibalism. Most people when hearing about the Donner Party and the fate that struck them think the most barbarious things that usually are involved with cannibalism. I never thought like that because I had a clear memory of what little it was that I learned about that party and its fate in school. Rarick does a great job, in so many ways, disecting cannibalism through out human history and how and why it grasped the hold of the Donner Party, or likely why they fell to such a fate, how the human psychology deals with it as it did with the survivors of the Donner Party. I highly recommand this book to all those who love U.S. History (and who have strong stomachs) to read this book.
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