Rating: 2 out of 5 horses
Challenges: New Author, ebook, 20 in 2009
Synopsis (and picture from BN.com)
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.
If you like history books about the west you will like this book, If you like books about relationships you probably won't like this book. I like books about relationships. I liked Patty's diary about what happened, but you had to read some parts of the book to understand what was happening outside of Patty's view. This book doesn't go very much into the cannibalism part from the Donner party so you don't have to worry about that. If this wasn't a book we were reading for my book club I would have put it on the Did Not Finish list.