Gabrielle Burton, University of Nebraska Press, $26.95, Hardcover.
Gabrielle Burton, University of Nebraska Press, $26.95, Hardcover.

This odd-but-interesting book provides an easy way of briefing someone on the tragic story of the Donner party, trapped in winter snows during 1846-47 in California’s Sierra Nevada. The company was made notorious by its survivors adopting cannibalism to save themselves from starvation. The author, perhaps because of her background in feminist movements of the 1960s, became obsessed with the role of Tamsen Donner, wife of the party’s leader George. After years of studying books on the subject (McGlashan, Stewart, King) and Donner manuscripts, she followed Tamsen’s footsteps westward, all the way to her presumed death site at Alder Creek, near Donner Lake. The back-and-forth arrangement of the text, from history to the Burton family’s travelogue, is well-handled. Only the first section, with its background of the author, is a bit tedious.

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