Snow Mountain Passage

Snow Mountain Passage

A Novel

Book - 2001
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Snow Mountain Passageis a powerful retelling of the most dramatic of our pioneer stories--the ordeal of the Donner Party, with its cast of young and old risking all, its imprisoning snows, its rumors of cannibalism. James Houston takes us inside this central American myth in a compelling new way that only a novelist can achieve. The people whose dreams, courage, terror, ingenuity, and fate we share are James Frazier Reed, one of the leaders of the Donner Party, and his wife and four children--in particular his eight-year-old daughter, Patty. From the moment we meet Reed--proud, headstrong, yet a devoted husband and father--traveling with his family in the "Palace Car," a huge, specially built covered wagon transporting the Reeds in grand style, the stage is set for trouble. And as they journey across the country, thrilling to new sights and new friends, coping with outbursts of conflict and constant danger, trouble comes. It comes in the fateful choice of a wrong route, which causes the group to arrive at the foot of the Sierra Nevada too late to cross into the promised land before the snows block the way. It comes in the sudden fight between Reed and a drover--a fight that exiles Reed from the others, sending him solo over the mountains ahead of the storms. We follow Reed during the next five months as he travels around northern California, trying desperately to find means and men to rescue his family. And through the amazingly imagined "Trail Notes" of Patty Reed, who recollects late in life her experiences as a child, we also follow the main group, progressively stranded and starving on the Nevada side of the Sierras. Snow Mountain Passageis an extraordinary tale of pride and redemption. What happens--who dies, who survives, and why--is brilliantly, grippingly told.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Knopf : 2001
ISBN: 9780375411038
Branch Call Number: FIC Hous
Characteristics: 317p


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Feb 03, 2006

Upon beginning to read this historical novel, I was excited to see how the author dealt with the more sensational parts of the Donner Party story. I hoped that he would create a sympathetic point of view, but he used and abused these incidents in a tabloid type way. His characters were often one sided, the wife beater for instance, or simplistic, the headachy wife. His depiction of wagon train life wavers between realism and an over simplification of events. The flip flopping between events and the order in which they really happened made me doubt the veracity of his historical fiction writing. The only truly readable parts were the diary excerpt from an eight year old girl, if you want to just skip to those parts. Ultimately this book disappoints in the most crucial part ? the history.

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