Here's a book that for its very power may go over. The author has taken the grimmest chapter in our national background, and told in slightly fictionized form the tragedy of the Donner Party. Every fact, every character is based historical data -- no need to dramatize what is almost too dramatic for belief. Into the bare bones of history, Birney has breathed life. Three years before the old rush opened the Overland Trail, this group of settlers, seeking new fields and leaving the Mississippi Valley behind them, attempted to blaze a trail across the Salt Desert and the Sierras. This is their saga, a saga of greed, incompetence, cruelty. Stark, poignant, gripping in its intensity, the story lays hold of the imagination, and seers itself indelibly on the mind.