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Searching for Tamsen Donner (American Lives)

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Searching for Tamsen Donner (American Lives) Cover

ISBN13: 9780803222854
ISBN10: 0803222858
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Only 1 left in stock at $17.95!

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Tamsen Donner. For most the name conjures the ill-fated Donner party trapped in the snows of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1846-47. Others might know Tamsen as the stoic pioneer woman who saw her children to safety but stayed with her dying husband at the cost of her own life. For Gabrielle Burton, Tamsen's story, fascinating in its own right, had long seemed something more: the story of a woman's life writ large, one whose impossible balancing of self, motherhood, and marriage spoke to Burton's own experience.

This book tells of Burton's search to solve the mystery of Tamsen Donner for herself. A graceful mingling of history and memoir, Searching for Tamsen Donner follows Burton and her husband, with their five daughters, on her journey along Tamsen's path. From Tamsen's birthplace in Massachusetts to North Carolina, where she lost her first family in the space of three months; to Illinois, where she married George Donner; and finally to the fateful Oregon Trail, Burton recovers one woman's compelling history through a modern-day family's adventure into realms of ultimately timeless experiences. Here Burton has collected and published together for the first time, all seventeen of Tamsen's known letters.

Review:

"This is, of course, as much Gabrielle Burton's story as it is that of Tamsen Donner, and as such captures the reader early with its sincerity and idealism, and, indeed, its obsession." Lincoln Journal Star

Review:

"[Burton] succeeds where other historians and biographers have failed in uncovering and publishing here all 17 of Donner's known letters from the journey.... Burton's curiosity to speculate and piece together clues as to circumstances surrounding Tamsen's fate...drives the narrative forward as if Burton's own perceived vulnerabilities somehow implicate her in the tragedy. It's the book's final uncoupling of these two parallel lives that is Tamsen Donner's legacy to pioneering woman and Burton's literary triumph." Buffalo News

Review:

"History lesson, memoir and intimate family portrait all at once, Searching for Tamsen Donner simultaneously re-creates the 1840s and the 1970s, east to west.... As dramatic and tragic as the story of the Donner Party is, it shares space here with the tender reflections of a mother of five daughters whose filial companionship on a summer road trip long ago bespoke a very different kind of family journey across the American West." Los Angeles Times Book Review

Review:

"[Searching for Tamsen Donner] is a thoughtful and engaging blend of history and memoir that inspires the reader to delve further into the Donner party's fate, while at the same time enjoying Burton's struggle to be both a full-time mother and successful writer." Booklist Online

Review:

"Arriving just in time for summer road trip planning, Searching for Tamsen Donner is a moving exploration of a legendary American woman through the eyes of a modern heroine." Feminist Review

Review:

"Author Gabrielle Burton has created a solid work of history that manages to be a wonderful, touching personal memoir as well." San Diego Union Tribune

Synopsis:

Day One, and already she was lying in her journal. It was 1993, Suzanne Roberts had just finished college, and when her friend suggested they hike Californiaandrsquo;s John Muir Trail, the adventure sounded like the perfect distraction from a difficult home life and thoughts about the future. But she never imagined that the twenty-eight-day hike would change her life. Part memoir, part nature writing, part travelogue, Almost Somewhere is Robertsandrsquo;s account of that hike.

John Muir had written of the Sierra Nevada as a andldquo;vast range of light,andrdquo; and this was exactly what Roberts was looking for. But traveling with two girlfriends, one experienced and unflappable and the other inexperienced and bulimic, she quickly discovered that she needed a new frame of reference. Her story of a month in the backcountryandmdash;confronting bears, snowy passes, broken equipment, injuries, and strange menandmdash;is as much about finding a womanandrsquo;s way into outdoor experience as it is about the natural world she so eloquently describes. Candid and funny and, finally, wise, Almost Somewhere is not just the whimsical coming-of-age story of a young woman ill-prepared for a month in the mountains but also the reflection of a distinctly feminine view of nature.and#160; and#160;

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About the Author

Gabrielle Burton is a writer whose numerous projects include the film Manna from Heaven, which she wrote and produced, and the novel Heartbreak Hotel, which won Scribner's 1985 Maxwell Perkins Prize, an award for a first work of fiction. Her writing has appeared in publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Reading Fool, January 9, 2011 (view all comments by Reading Fool)
Gabrielle Burton’s memoir, “Searching for Tamsen Donner,” puts a new twist on the American road trip. For over 30 years Burton was haunted by the scant information on Donner’s life. Finally she convinced herself, her husband, and their five daughters to retrace the footsteps and wagon tracks on the Oregon Trail of what became known as the Donner Party.
As a young woman Tamsen Donner moved frequently along the eastern coast of America in search of teaching jobs. She taught school, married, then lost a son, a prematurely born daughter, and her husband within the space of months. Her second marriage took her to Missouri in 1946 where she and some 400 other wagons began their journey west. Seventeen letters survive from Tamsen’s life, only two of which were written during the months of travel across the plains, the deserts, and mountains that would eventually take her life. These tiny, fragile scraps of paper started Gabrielle Burton on her own decades-long journey, and gave us “The Search for Tamsen Donner,” a story of two stories, woven of one thread – the teacher, the writer, seeking connection.

Burton’s unsentimental account of Tamsen Donner’s life makes a compelling read, never more so than in the last days, when, caught in heavy snows in the impenetrable terrain of the Sierra Nevadas, Tamsen relinquishes her children to strangers in the hopes they will survive where she will not. The Donner party’s fame rests on the gruesome details of survivors eating the dead. Burton struggles to come to grips with the role Tamsen Donner played in those last days. She reminds us how we need our heroes and heroines to be not only strong, but moral and of high principles. When faced with flawed heroines, we face ourselves.
Tamsen Donner’s letters revealed her fears and hopes, but more importantly, that the source of her strength and courage came from contact and support of her sister, Elizabeth, to whom she wrote after losing her first family, “O my sister weep for me if you have tears to spare.” Donner’s life ended tragically. Hopefully Gabrielle Burton’s will be long and successful. I look forward to reading more of her work, and thank her for sharing her love for Tamsen Donner in this important contribution to American frontier literature. #
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A R Pickett, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by A R Pickett)
One of the best books I've read in a very long time. A very engrossing combination of personal memoir, travelogue, adventure story, and history. Author Burton has a life long fascination with Donner, who was the wife of the leader of the Donner party, stranded in the High Sierras on their way to California. She combines the story of her own personal goal to maintain a life for herself as a writer, while raising five children.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
A R Pickett, November 30, 2010 (view all comments by A R Pickett)
I heard about the author Gabrielle Burton in a discussion on National Public Radio, and something about the tone of the comments sent me in search of this book. It took a little doing - eventually I got a copy through Inter Library Loan. It is a real shame that the book was hard to find, because it's one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I've had in a very long time. She skillfully combines a biography of Tamsen Donner with a memoir of her own experience raising a family and her determination to keep a place in her life for her own identity as a writer. Along the way she throws in an entertaining "road story" of her family's retracing the path of the Donner party, and for good measure adds a dollop of a classic American adventure tale of the expansion of the West. Not many authors can combine themes so skillfully.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780803222854
Author:
Burton, Gabrielle
Publisher:
University of Nebraska Press
Author:
Roberts, Suzanne
Subject:
BIO026000
Subject:
Frontier and pioneer life
Subject:
Overland journeys to the pacific
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Family
Subject:
West (U.S.) Description and travel.
Subject:
Historical - U.S.
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Biography-Historical
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Series:
American Lives
Publication Date:
20090331
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
14 photos, 2 maps
Pages:
328
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » Historical
Biography » Women
History and Social Science » Americana » Western States
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
History and Social Science » World History » General

Searching for Tamsen Donner (American Lives) Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$17.95 In Stock
Product details 328 pages University of Nebraska Press - English 9780803222854 Reviews:
"Review" by , "This is, of course, as much Gabrielle Burton's story as it is that of Tamsen Donner, and as such captures the reader early with its sincerity and idealism, and, indeed, its obsession."
"Review" by , "[Burton] succeeds where other historians and biographers have failed in uncovering and publishing here all 17 of Donner's known letters from the journey.... Burton's curiosity to speculate and piece together clues as to circumstances surrounding Tamsen's fate...drives the narrative forward as if Burton's own perceived vulnerabilities somehow implicate her in the tragedy. It's the book's final uncoupling of these two parallel lives that is Tamsen Donner's legacy to pioneering woman and Burton's literary triumph."
"Review" by , "History lesson, memoir and intimate family portrait all at once, Searching for Tamsen Donner simultaneously re-creates the 1840s and the 1970s, east to west.... As dramatic and tragic as the story of the Donner Party is, it shares space here with the tender reflections of a mother of five daughters whose filial companionship on a summer road trip long ago bespoke a very different kind of family journey across the American West."
"Review" by , "[Searching for Tamsen Donner] is a thoughtful and engaging blend of history and memoir that inspires the reader to delve further into the Donner party's fate, while at the same time enjoying Burton's struggle to be both a full-time mother and successful writer."
"Review" by , "Arriving just in time for summer road trip planning, Searching for Tamsen Donner is a moving exploration of a legendary American woman through the eyes of a modern heroine."
"Review" by , "Author Gabrielle Burton has created a solid work of history that manages to be a wonderful, touching personal memoir as well."
"Synopsis" by ,

Day One, and already she was lying in her journal. It was 1993, Suzanne Roberts had just finished college, and when her friend suggested they hike Californiaandrsquo;s John Muir Trail, the adventure sounded like the perfect distraction from a difficult home life and thoughts about the future. But she never imagined that the twenty-eight-day hike would change her life. Part memoir, part nature writing, part travelogue, Almost Somewhere is Robertsandrsquo;s account of that hike.

John Muir had written of the Sierra Nevada as a andldquo;vast range of light,andrdquo; and this was exactly what Roberts was looking for. But traveling with two girlfriends, one experienced and unflappable and the other inexperienced and bulimic, she quickly discovered that she needed a new frame of reference. Her story of a month in the backcountryandmdash;confronting bears, snowy passes, broken equipment, injuries, and strange menandmdash;is as much about finding a womanandrsquo;s way into outdoor experience as it is about the natural world she so eloquently describes. Candid and funny and, finally, wise, Almost Somewhere is not just the whimsical coming-of-age story of a young woman ill-prepared for a month in the mountains but also the reflection of a distinctly feminine view of nature.and#160; and#160;

Watch a book trailer.

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