Linds's Reviews > Ordeal by Hunger: the Story of the Donner Party

Ordeal by Hunger by George R. Stewart
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Feb 08, 12

bookshelves: 1800-s, non-fiction, native-american, downers, read-in-2012, survival, western, history
Read from January 30 to February 08, 2012

I read this book for two reasons -
1.) I grew up in northern California and we would drive through Donner's Pass from time to time.
2.) I've been into true survival stories lately, most notably 127 Hours and the 1972 Uruguayan plane crash.

It's almost hard to believe what they went through, even before getting trapped in the mountains. They got lost, had to carve their own trail, got lost, attacked by Indians, and almost died of thirst on the Salt Lake flats. That's before they got trapped in the Sierras and had to resort to cannibalism.

It's definitely one of the bleakest books I've ever read. There wasn't helicopters for a rescue, and there were children involved. It's hard not to blame it on men's stupidity and arrogance. What type of men would bring their women and children on an untested shortcut when there was an established and safe trail? Though no one deserved what they got for their fatal mistake, that's for sure.

It's a thorough and the most famous telling of the ordeal. There were heroes and cowards, like there are always in times of trouble, though rarely this extreme. It was written in 1936 so the language tries to make it seem like some great adventure sometimes, and there are obvious racial and sexist bias. But it's an interesting read, if a bleak one.
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