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The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride

by

The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride Cover

 

Staff Pick

History at its finest! Brown uses great skill, detail, and atmosphere to dust off the story of the Donner party in this enthralling read. High adventure, suspense, and drama combine with tragedy to make this outstanding work as readable as a novel.
Recommended by Michal D., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In April of 1846, Sarah Graves was twenty-one and in love with a young man who played the violin. But she was torn. Her mother, father, and eight siblings were about to disappear over the western horizon forever, bound for California. Sarah could not bear to see them go out of her life, and so days before the planned departure she married the young man with the violin, and the two of them threw their lot in with the rest of Sarah's family. On April 12, they rolled out of the yard of their homestead in three ox-drawn wagons.

Seven months later, after joining a party of emigrants led by George Donner, Sarah and her family arrived at Truckee Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains just as the first heavy snows of the season closed the pass ahead of them. After a series of desperate attempts to cross the mountains, the party improvised cabins and slaughtered what remained of their emaciated livestock. By early December they were beginning to starve.

Sarah's father, a Vermonter, was the only member of the party familiar with snowshoes. Under his instruction, fifteen sets of snowshoes were hastily constructed from oxbows and rawhide, and on December 15, Sarah and fourteen other relatively young, healthy people set out for California on foot, hoping to get relief for the others. Over the next thirty-two days they endured almost unfathomable hardships and horrors.

In this gripping narrative, Daniel James Brown takes the reader along on every painful footstep of Sarah's journey. Along the way, he weaves into the story revealing insights garnered from a variety of modern scientific perspectives-psychology, physiology, forensics, and archaeology-producing a tale that is not only spell-binding but richly informative.

Review:

"Brown delivers a skillful, suspenseful study of the Donner Party....A moving man-against-nature tragedy that still resonates today." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Brown's work gracefully balances graphic depictions of extreme privation with humanizing glimpses of the emigrants' everyday hopes and fears. Brown also skillfully weaves relevant historical, cultural, and scientific information into his chronicle, creating a rich and contextualized background." Library Journal

Book News Annotation:

This historical account of the tragic Donner Party is viewed through the eyes of one of its survivors, a 21-year-old woman who had been married only a few months before the trek to California began. Brown, the author of Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894, tells the story of Sarah Graves' battle for survival through the use of modern psychological, physiological, forensic and archaeological perspectives. General readers will appreciate the use of these modern biology and psychology techniques to explore the motivations and challenges of these pioneers, as well as their fatal miscalculations, in greater depth. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

In this powerful story, Brown delivers an unforgettable portrait of the heroism, heartbreak, and horror of a pioneer family's perilous journey west from Illinois to California. b&w photo insert.

Synopsis:

“An ideal pairing of talent and material... Engrossing.” —Mary Roach, New York Times Book Review

"Brown draws from the many previously published accounts of the tragedy... but he tells the tale with a novelist's touch." —Boston Globe

 Reminiscent of Into Thin Air, Miracle in the Andes, and the works of Tim OBrien (The Things They Carried, Going After Cacciato) and Douglas Brinkley (The Wilderness Warrior, The Great Deluge), The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown (Under a Flaming Sky) reveals the tragic story of the doomed Donner party, as seen through the prism of one young woman who survived.

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About the Author

Daniel James Brown is the author of the widely acclaimed Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894. He lives in the country east of Redmond, Washington, with his wife and two daughters.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

lesherb, January 3, 2010 (view all comments by lesherb)
Being in the heat of a Floridian summer, the author was able to transport this reader to the frigid clime of the Sierra Mountains of the 19th century.

Only knowing the gory details of the Donner Party, I was interested to know the human story. What propelled these people onto this fateful trek? Who survived and how did they manage?

Being introduced to Sarah Graves put me in the story instead of just merely watching it unfold, removed by miles and years. I shivered at night with my new companions, mourned their losses, and willed them onto their destination.

If you are like me and are more apt to appreciate history when the participants are introduced to you, rather than watched from afar, then this book will not disappoint. You will appreciate their strengths and their weaknesses, their bright ideas and their ignorance.

It is cliché to claim not to be able to put a book down but this is one of those books. What really caused me to use a bookmark and return instead of consuming it in one sitting was my desire to read it for as long as possible. It is a rare day when I find something I enjoy reading so much, I put it down for later, to savor it so it lasts as long as possible. This is one of those books.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061348105
Subtitle:
The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride
Author:
Brown, Daniel James
Author:
Brown, Daniel
Publisher:
William Morrow
Subject:
Pioneers
Subject:
Frontier and pioneer life
Subject:
General
Subject:
Historical - U.S.
Subject:
United States - State & Local - West
Subject:
West (U.S.) Description and travel.
Subject:
Overland journeys to the pacific
Subject:
Women
Subject:
United States - 19th Century/Old West
Subject:
General History
Subject:
Biography-Historical
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20090428
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 1.14695 in 18.4 oz

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Americana » Western States

The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$12.50 In Stock
Product details 352 pages William Morrow & Company - English 9780061348105 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

History at its finest! Brown uses great skill, detail, and atmosphere to dust off the story of the Donner party in this enthralling read. High adventure, suspense, and drama combine with tragedy to make this outstanding work as readable as a novel.

"Review" by , "Brown delivers a skillful, suspenseful study of the Donner Party....A moving man-against-nature tragedy that still resonates today."
"Review" by , "Brown's work gracefully balances graphic depictions of extreme privation with humanizing glimpses of the emigrants' everyday hopes and fears. Brown also skillfully weaves relevant historical, cultural, and scientific information into his chronicle, creating a rich and contextualized background."
"Synopsis" by , In this powerful story, Brown delivers an unforgettable portrait of the heroism, heartbreak, and horror of a pioneer family's perilous journey west from Illinois to California. b&w photo insert.
"Synopsis" by , “An ideal pairing of talent and material... Engrossing.” —Mary Roach, New York Times Book Review

"Brown draws from the many previously published accounts of the tragedy... but he tells the tale with a novelist's touch." —Boston Globe

 Reminiscent of Into Thin Air, Miracle in the Andes, and the works of Tim OBrien (The Things They Carried, Going After Cacciato) and Douglas Brinkley (The Wilderness Warrior, The Great Deluge), The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown (Under a Flaming Sky) reveals the tragic story of the doomed Donner party, as seen through the prism of one young woman who survived.

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