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Publisher's Summary

In late October 1846, the last wagon train of that year's westward migration stopped overnight before resuming its arduous climb over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, unaware that a fearsome storm was gathering force. After months of grueling travel, the 81 men, women and children would be trapped for a brutal winter with little food and only primitive shelter. The conclusion is known: by spring of the next year, the Donner Party was synonymous with the most harrowing extremes of human survival. But until now, the full story of what happened--and what it tells us about human nature and about America's westward expansion--remained shrouded in myth.
Drawing on fresh archeological evidence, recent research on topics ranging from survival rates to snowfall totals, and heartbreaking letters and diaries made public by descendants a century-and-a-half after the tragedy, Ethan Rarick offers an intimate portrait of the Donner party and their unimaginable ordeal: a mother who must divide her family, a little girl who shines with courage, a devoted wife who refuses to abandon her husband, a man who risks his life merely to keep his word. Rarick resists both the gruesomely sensationalist accounts of the Donner party as well as later attempts to turn the survivors into archetypal pioneer heroes. "The Donner Party," Rarick writes, "is a story of hard decisions that were neither heroic nor villainous. Often, the emigrants displayed a more realistic and typically human mixture of generosity and selfishness, an alloy born of necessity."
A fast-paced, heart-wrenching, clear-eyed narrative history, Desperate Passage casts new light on one of America's most horrific encounters between the dream of a better life and the harsh realities such dreams so often must confront.
©2009 Ethan Rarick (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

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By JOSEPH on 06-11-12

Very well researched story of the Donner Party

Overall a very good book, I was impressed by the detail of available information presented in the book. Part 2 has the story most might know about the actual events at Donner Lake. But listening to the buildup, the wrong decisions, the just plain bad luck, as well as all the 'back story' to the other families involved in this was very interesting to me.

The performance was ok, not bad but not too great either. He reads the story well, what detracted it for me was the numerous 'voice overs' where corrections were made in the reading. They were annoying to me because they're so obvious! Changes in sound quality and sometimes volume in the voice overs just got to be a bit bothersome to me. I've heard many books were the voice overs are seamless or almost totally undetectable. This isn't one of those!

Again a very good story! If interested in the story of the Donner Party, I'd recommend this version especially due to the detail of the story told.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful


By Roger on 02-09-10

I REALLY enjoyed this book

I REALLY enjoyed this book. I have listened to it twice in the last three weeks - and don't want it to end. The book is narrated by Christopher Prince, who makes the book enjoyable listening.


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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Dr. Robert Griffiths on 03-23-10

Desperate Passage

Probably not the most cheerful of subjects to listen to on audio book. But almost from the first few minutes I was whisked off into nineteenth century America. I?ve spent the last three mornings sitting in the work car park waiting for a chapter to end before being able to leave the car!! I?m now over half way through the audio book and actually looking forward to going into work tomorrow ? or at least the drive in and the drive home!! Don?t think about it ? get this audio book!!!!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful


By Kindle Customer on 01-22-18

great book but a bit short on details

loved the book and the quality of the audio is great. I wish there were more details, information shared

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