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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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Snow Mountain Passage

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Snow Mountain Passage Cover

ISBN13: 9780375411038
ISBN10: 0375411038
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Snow Mountain Passage is a powerful retelling of the most dramatic of our pioneer stories—the ordeal of the Donner Party, with its cast of young and old risking all, its imprisoning snows, its rumors of cannibalism. James Houston takes us inside this central American myth in a compelling new way that only a novelist can achieve.

The people whose dreams, courage, terror, ingenuity, and fate we share are James Frazier Reed, one of the leaders of the Donner Party, and his wife and four children—in particular his eight-year-old daughter, Patty. From the moment we meet Reed—proud, headstrong, yet a devoted husband and father—traveling with his family in the "Palace Car," a huge, specially built covered wagon transporting the Reeds in grand style, the stage is set for trouble. And as they journey across the country, thrilling to new sights and new friends, coping with outbursts of conflict and constant danger, trouble comes. It comes in the fateful choice of a wrong route, which causes the group to arrive at the foot of the Sierra Nevada too late to cross into the promised land before the snows block the way. It comes in the sudden fight between Reed and a drover—a fight that exiles Reed from the others, sending him solo over the mountains ahead of the storms.

We follow Reed during the next five months as he travels around northern California, trying desperately to find means and men to rescue his family. And through the amazingly imagined "Trail Notes" of Patty Reed, who recollects late in life her experiences as a child, we also follow the main group, progressively stranded and starving on the Nevada side of the Sierras.

Snow Mountain Passage is an extraordinary tale of pride and redemption. What happens—who dies, who survives, and why—is brilliantly, grippingly told.

About the Author

James D. Houston is the author of six previous novels, among them Continental Drift, Love Life, and The Last Paradise. His nonfiction works include Californians; In the Ring of Fire: A Pacific Basin Journey; and Farewell to Manzanar, which he coauthored with his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. He lives in Santa Cruz, California, in the house where Patty Reed spent the last years of her life.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Misfit, July 25, 2007 (view all comments by Misfit)
Mixed feelings. I admit to being a bit disappointed, as this book turned out to be more about Jim Reed and less about the Donner party. The first part of the book was very entertaining as it dealt with the Donner/Reed group on the trail to California. A disagreement arises between Reed and another leading to a fight and Reed has to leave the wagon train and strike out on his own towards California on horse ahead of the others. Once the wagon train reaches Truckee and snow hits and they realize they can go no further, the story leaves them and the middle third of the book is about Reed's travels on the other side of the Sierras. I found this part to be quite boring and I was literally skimming and skipping chapters. I just wasn't interested (nor expecting) to read about the US/Mexican war in California nor Reed's involvement with same.

Interspered with the author's writings of Reed's story are Notes from the Trail by his daughter Patty that were written when Patty was much older. Those were the chapters that held my interest, especially the story of the rescue and getting the survivors out of their winter camp and over the mountains to safety.

All in all a reasonably interesting read, but I'm glad I got it from the library as it's one I'm not likely to want to read again. Four stars for Patty's Notes from the Trail, two stars for the story of Jim Reed and the US/Mexican war.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375411038
Author:
Houston, James D.
Publisher:
Knopf
Author:
Houston, James D.
Location:
New York
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
California
Subject:
History
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Overland journeys to the pacific
Subject:
Donner party
Subject:
Wilderness survival
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Series Volume:
105-418
Publication Date:
20010327
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
9.56x6.53x1.26 in. 1.47 lbs.

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