The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep

Voices From the Donner Party

Book - 2020
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This book recounts one of history's most harrowing - and chilling - tales of survival. In 1846, a group of emigrants bound for California face a choice: continue on their planned route or take a shortcut into the wilderness. Eighty-nine of them opt for the untested trail, a decision that plunges them into danger and desperation and, finally, the unthinkable. This is a retelling of the ill-fated journey of the Donner party across the Sierra Nevadas during the winter of 1846-1847. Narrated by multiple voices, including world-weary, taunting, and all-knowing Hunger itself, this novel-in-verse examines a notorious chapter in history from various perspectives, among them caravan leaders George Donner and James Reed, Donner's scholarly wife, two Miwok Indian guides, the Reed children, a sixteen-year-old orphan, and even a pair of oxen. Comprehensive back matter includes an author's note, select character biographies, statistics, a time line of events, and more. This haunting tale raises questions about moral ambiguity, hope and resilience, and hunger of all kinds.--adapted from description on Amazon.com.
Publisher: Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press, 2020
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780763663247
0763663247
Characteristics: 399 pages : map ; 24 cm

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r
ryner
Oct 26, 2020

The tragic story of the Donner Party is disturbing and yet grotesquely captivating in much the same way as a train wreck. In this new take on the events surrounding this ill-fated party of travelers and their futile 1846 attempt to journey to California before the chills of winter, poet and storyteller Allan Wolf puts a new twist on tale by writing in verse. Among the many voices heard in this work are party leader James Reed, his two daughters Virginia and Patty, Tamzene Donner, German immigrant Ludwig Keseberg, Native American scouts Luis and Salvador and orphan Baptiste Trudeau (and his two oxen); as well as several intangible entities such as The Hastings Cutoff, snow and, most hauntingly, Hunger.

I've commented on other works about how reading about historical tragedies in hindsight can be anxiety-inducing, with the reader fervently and yet illogically hoping that somehow the ending will be different. In the case of the Donner Party, there were a number of poor decisions on the part of the leaders, compounded by a series of misfortunes that simply came down to bad luck. I came to this book having already read two other works about the Donner Party, and therefore already had a level of familiarity which made it a bit easier to keep the characters straight. This is a fascinating read. I also highly recommend another of Wolf's historical novels in verse, 'The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic.'

I received this ARC via LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

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