Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “When Winter Comes” as Want to Read:
When Winter Comes
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

When Winter Comes

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  94 reviews
In the voice of an unforgettable heroine, V.A. Shannon explores one of the most harrowing episodes in pioneer history—the ill-fated journey of the Donner Party—in a mesmerizing novel of resilience and survival.
Mrs. Jacob Klein has a husband, children, and a warm and comfortable home in California. No one—not even her family—knows how she came to be out West thirteen ye
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by Kensington
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about When Winter Comes, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about When Winter Comes

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  364 ratings  ·  94 reviews

Sort order
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
It has been 13 years since Mrs. Jacob Klein came west to California. She doesn't like remembering her journey west. She has three children now and a husband....and she doesn't want them to know she was part of the Donner Party. She wants to keep the horror of that winter in the wilderness a secret. Some of the survivors have made money or gained fame from telling partial truths about their experiences that winter....but she doesn't want to risk the truth destroying her new life with her family. ...more
Deanne Patterson
In the past I have read stories of the Donner Party, one of the most unfortunate wagon train trips ever to happen. Though this book is fictional and we may never know exactly what happened with so many different exaggerated stories being told by survivors this is based on true harrowing facts. In 1846 on the outskirts of Cincinnati hundreds of wagons gather to make the trip to California among them a brave fifteen year old girl who just knows a new start at life would be better than staying behi ...more
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, netgalley
Thank you Netgalley and Kensington Books for the ARC.

Our main character, only introduced by her married name Mrs. Klein, takes us on a long journey from hometown Cincinnati to the new state of California. We are part of the 1840's wagon train to the new frontier. A rough journey through a diverse and unforgiving landscape. We get to know the different families, their traditions and values, their place in the order of things. There are friends and rivals, laughter and sadness, some fierce tempera
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Winter Comes is an engaging and emotive fictional account inspired by the true Donner Party events.
Switching between past and present, V.A. Shannon skilfully told a story that kept my interest throughout.
Gripping story with interesting and well crafted characters. Hope and tragedy and impossible choices. Shannon definitely knows how to write emotions.
I really felt for our main character. Known to reader as Mrs Klein, she starts the journey as a rough and neglected young girl who grows to be
When Winter Comes is a fictionalized account of the Donner Party as they travel to California told by Mrs. Jacob Klein as she reflects back on her experience. This should have been an emotionally charged read for me but I felt no connection with the characters given the circumstances they found themselves in and the horrifying conditions of freezing and starving in the mountains while trying to figure a way out.

Thank you Kensington Books and Netgalley for a free e-copy.
Wonderful historical fiction, I loved it and couldn't put it down. I consider myself very fortunate to have been chosen as one of the recipients of a copy in advance of publication. My advance review copy is now well creased, as I read this remarkable novel in bed, on the bus and crammed it in my handbag to take to work, I was so engrossed in the story.

Quite recently I read another fictional book with a supernatural angle The Hunger based on the same true subject, the Donner party of pioneers wh
Vivienne Shannon
As the author of this novel I thought it might be a nice idea to just write a little about it and the background to my writing it. So first, my one-line synopsis - "An everyday story of quilting and cannibalism". Other than that I can't really categorise it. It's got a love story in it, but it's not a romance; it's got some murdering and a few Hannibal Lecter-ish moments, but it's not a horror story or a detective-y thriller. It's basically just a story set in pioneer California in the nineteent ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Winter Comes is a fictional story inspired by the true historical events of the Donner Party in the 1800s.

Our narrator throughout the journey remains nameless. We only know her as a 15 year old girl, running away from a poor abusive family who joins a wagon trail heading west from Cincinnati to California to find land and settle for a better life. She finds a young couple willing to take her with their wagon, to be there as a helper to them and their young daughter and full of optimism and
Susan Peterson
This is a very gripping, fictional account about the Donner party. The author dug deep into their desperation and sorrow. This is not an easy book to read, but the author did an excellent job of putting the readers on that trail with the doomed wagon train.
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this historical novel based on actual people and circumstances involved in what is now known as the Donner party. This American pioneer time period, the mid-1800s, is fascinating. The novel imagines the wagon train and encampments as some 80 people in the Donner party walk from Ohio to the relative wilds of California in search of better lives. Tragically, after walking for 7 months and when they were almost in California, winter came early in the Sierra Nevadas and hit hard, fo ...more
This book is based on a true story of one of the first American pioneers passing the Sierra Nevada Mountain range to reach California. “In early November, 1846, the Donner Party found the route blocked by snow and was forced to spend the winter on the east side of the mountains. Of the 81 settlers, only 45 survived to reach California, some of them resorting to cannibalism to survive.”

1846 Cincinnati, this story starts with a 15 year old heroine, who escapes her abusive father and trails along w
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5 stars

This book is a fictional account of a true story. I, too, have read the novel The Hunger which is a very different take on what happened.

The story begins as the narrator, now a married woman living a quiet life in California with her husband Jacob and three daughters. She spends the day cooking, cleaning, gardening and spending time with her quilting bee friends.

When she receives a journal from Jacob at first she is afraid of writing anything down. But she picks up her pen and the story
Deanna Walker
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, netgalley
Thanks to Netgalley for the advanced copy...

It was a great storylines, especially her going through in camp out at the mountains..I just couldn't believe that so many peoples and their kids had died at the mountain..
Sep 19, 2018 marked it as to-read
"An everyday story of quilting and cannibalism." I almost spit my coffee.
Jeannie Zelos
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
When Winter Comes,  V.A. Shannon

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre: Historical fiction

Gosh, such a difficult book to review. I enjoyed it immensely, but it also made me incredibly angry, sad, squeamish, and so glad I was born in recent history.
Its easy to judge from the perspective of a safe, warm home, plenty of food, good trustworthy family and friends. The Indian saying about walking a moon in anothers shoes before judging is a good one to bear in mind. Who knows what we'd do when f
Susanne Gulde
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I lost interest in this book about half-way through. It was depressing to read a view of a well-known historical event from a non-existing character.
Although no one knows the true and complete events of the Donner Party, I had no sympathy for the narrator, either as a young girl or adult.
Regina Spiker
"Hunger is an evil thing, and brings with it the worst of human nature; it is an agony of the flesh, but it is an agony of the spirit as well."
Amie's Book Reviews
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Hunger is an evil thing, and brings with it the worst of human nature; it is an agony of the flesh, but it is an agony of the spirit as well."

Most people who have even a passing interest in Pioneer times have heard one or more versions of the story of the Donner party's trek from Ohio to California which ended in murder and cannibalism. WHEN WINTER COMES is a new fictional version of this true tale.

Told thirteen years after the survivors arrival in California, this tale is written in story fo
Mary Casey
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most gruesome and thought provoking PBS mini-series I ever watched was about the Donner Party and push to go west to California. It uses real diaries written by the survivors and photographs from the time. Well researched, it is a gut wrenching and sorrowful piece of American history brought on because a bunch of men decided to take a short-cut. When Winter Comes by V.A. Shannon is a period novel told about this fatal excursion from the first hand experiences of young woman from Cinci ...more
Dianne McMahan
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read about the trials and tribulations of the ill-fated Donner party that started out happily enough from. Cincinnati,Ohio in the 1850's on their way to a new and better life for their family and kin in California.
Much has been written about this fateful journey,both fictional and non-fictional,but
I truly have read none,that has held my interest more than this rendition by V.A. Shannon.
Would definitely recommend as a fascinating read for anyone interested in early Pioneer History.

My s
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Time taken to read - in and out over two days

Pages - 304

Publisher - Kensington Fiction

Source - Review Copy

Blurb from Goodreads

In the voice of an unforgettable heroine, V.A. Shannon explores one of the most harrowing episodes in pioneer history—the ill-fated journey of the Donner Party—in a mesmerizing novel of resilience and survival.

Mrs. Jacob Klein has a husband, children, and a warm and comfortable home in California. No one—not even her family—knows how she came to be out West thirteen y
Donna Hines
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, netgalley
"Hunger is an evil thing!"
This story discusses the ill failed journey of the Donner party and their journey to the West to the camp before winter.
In 1846 on the outskirts of Cincinnatti wagons lined up by the hundreds to head west to California and ended up taking a short cut through the Sierra mountains hoping to avoid the treacherous snowfall that's fast approaching.
To keep memories or tell the truth -- now that's the ultimate decision here.
"California is the land of brave souls who adventure
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
--I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are purely my own and not influenced in any way.--
I really thought before I read this that I knew a lot about the Donner Party, but this has proven to me that I did not, in fact, even kind of understand the sheer desperation that the party faced on their ill-fated journey. Our main narrator was created for the sake of the story, and she's kind of an obnoxious main character, but let's face it, you're probably not rea
Catherine Glynn

This is definitely not my typical read.

Shannon describes the journey of a group of hopeful people trying to get to California for a better life.
I was very empathetic every step of the way.
Unfortunately, I forgot that one of the families was the Donner Party and what they did to survive that winter.
One particular passage still has my stomach churning.
Great research by Shannon.
I also liked how Mrs. Klein, the respectable mayor's wife kept her past secrets to herself.
Michele Von
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Grim but fantastic

The author brings to light the preciousness of life, hope, and despair. I have never read anything about the Donner party—avoided it until now. Definitely worth reading.
Bethany Swafford
Oct 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle
Mrs. Jacob Klein’s husband of thirteen years has gifted her a journal, promising to never ask what she writes in it. In the privacy of those journal pages, she writes about how her experience as a fifteen-year-old young woman as part of the ill-fated Donner Party.

Through the whole novel, we never learn her real name. I didn’t connect with this main character at all. From the start, I couldn’t like her. She came across as secretive, manipulative, and selfish. So, for me, there wasn’t as much if a
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the beginning of this book. Mrs. Klein receives a journal as a present from her husband. She writes about journeying to California with the Donner party. For the historical information given, I thought the author did a good job. The book, however, dragged on for me and did not build a connection for me with the characters. So for facts 3.5 stars and readability 2 stars. Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC..
Cassandra MADEUP BookBlog
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well worth a read for anyone who who enjoys historical fiction that is engrossing for a mixture of reasons, with a very individual and well researched basis.

The story follows Mrs Klein, both in present and in past. At being presented with a Journal by her husband, Mrs Klein begins to recount her experiences, and how she came to be where and who she is.

The mixture of past and present gave a very individual perspective of the main character, and I was left unsure as to my feelings about her. She w
Oct 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
When Winter Comes by V.A. Shannon is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-October.

Startled at learning of the fates of two men who had saved the Donner Party and angry towards the litany of articles written by so-called survivors, Mrs Klein begins a journal, assured in the truth of what really happened. From there, the story bops between the journal (where she starts to see signs of unrest, misdirection, suspicious of others cutting corners, scaling down of cargo and provisions, before devo
Kathleen Gray
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An impressive, highly readable, suspenseful work of historical fiction. This is an excellent introduction to the travails of the Reed Donner Party, which found itself marooned in the winter while trying to make it to California. There's a sort of dual time line here- with some chapters focused on the after and some on the horrors of the trail. The name of the narrator is never given - and Shannon advises in the afternoon that she is Shannon's creation. If you are unfamiliar with this horror, you ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Glovemaker
  • Widdershins
  • Eliza Waite
  • Blackberry and Wild Rose
  • The Last Treasure
  • The Story Keeper
  • Sweet Home Alaska
  • Let's No One Get Hurt
  • Too Near The Edge (Cleo & Tyler Mysteries, #1)
  • Hiking the Continental Divide Trail: One Woman's Journey
  • Avelynn (Avelynn #1)
  • The Governor's Sons
  • Head Games
  • Everything She Didn't Say
  • In Spite of Lions
  • The Tease (Darling Killer Trilogy, #1)
  • Sickness Behind Young Eyes (Haunted Shadows #1)
  • The Strawberry Thief (Chocolat, #4)