Lotte's Reviews > Searching for Tamsen Donner

Searching for Tamsen Donner by Gabrielle Burton
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Jul 08, 10


Part biography of Tamsen Donner, part story of the Donner party's westward trek, part memoir of a family's summer trip 30 years earlier, and part reflections of the author's struggles to find balance in her life, some readers may feel disheartened at a lack of purpose and focus. I was predisposed to enjoy this book because of its positive review on NPR and my own interest in women's history, western history, the family's summer journey with 5 young daughters, and the weaving together of several themes.

I found myself occasionally irritated at the author's personal reflections. Burton finds many similarities between her life and that of Donner, and sometimes these sections felt fabricated. By looking long and hard enough, similarities in life are not difficult to name, but they may be largely in our minds. For me, her thoughts on finding personal balance eventually approached whining. I was also perplexed why, in a book only recently published, Burton mostly shares only her findings from the 1970s, providing few current updates on historical sites or interpretations of the Donner story.

Those weaknesses aside, when I finished this book, I felt satisfied and appreciative of Burton's efforts in producing one of the more interesting books I have read in quite awhile. I look forward to reading her book Impatient with Desire, a fictionalized view of Tamsen Donner of her life and the Donner party.
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