Paul Pessolano's Reviews > The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride

The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown
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Feb 19, 11


This book is a historical account of the Donner Party. I have to admit that I have been fascinated by the Donner Party since I was in high school. It is a harrowing account of families trying to get to California in 1846.

This account is a little different in that it does not focus on the Donners, but another family that was traveling in the party. Franklin and Elizabeth Graves, their married daughter Sarah, her husband, and their eight children left Illinois on their fateful journey. The story revolves around the Graves family, but focuses on Elizabeth.

The first part of the journey did have its problems, but not anymore than one would expect for this time and this type of undertaking. Food and water were always a concern and you had to be concerned about the children being run over by the animals or wagons, to say nothing of snakes. If something did go wrong, you only hoped that someone in the group had some knowledge of how to take care of the situation. The Graves real problems began when they reached the "Parting of the Ways". This was a place where one decided to take the northern route to Oregon and California, or take a new route that was to cut off several hundred miles of their journey. Unfortunately, this route, the Hastings cut-off, was untried and believed to be very difficult. The Graves family and several others joined George Donner and his family in attempting this new route. The Donner Party was also three weeks beyond the date that most people thought an attempt should be made to go over the Sierra Nevada. When they were about 100 miles from their objective a tremendous snowstorm stopped their progress. They were now subjected to below freezing temperatures and snow accumulating to 20 to 30 feet. They were also very low on food and there was no game in the area. Facing almost certain starvation a decision was made to eat those that had already died. I cannot even begin to tell you about the unbelievable hardship that befell these people. There were tremendous acts of courage and faith, as there were deceit and cowerdice. There were eighty-seven people in the Donner Party, forty-seven died as a result of the tragedy.

The book is very well done and should be of interest to just about everyone. It not only is the story of the Donner Party but gives outstanding insight as to what it must have been like to live in the late 1800's.



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