Solid Western history that enhances the understanding of a tragic tale by highlighting the strong human dimension through...



Prolific popular writer Wallis (David Crockett: Lion of the West, 2011, etc.) brings his storytelling skills to an unusual episode in American westward expansion.

Within the grand story of Manifest Destiny, the quest for land and settlement from coast to coast, lies the ill-fated saga of two diverse families that set out by wagon train from Springfield, Illinois, and then to the traditional jumping-off point of Independence, Missouri, en route to California. When they began their trek in early 1846, the extended Donner and Reed families had already been part of the great wave of immigration from Europe as well as Southern, border, and Midwestern states. Initially part of a larger convoy, they and their employees—eventually nearly 90 people in all—chose to break off and pursue a separate, nontraditional route. That proved to be a disastrous mistake, both because of their relative inexperience and the string of obstacles that confronted them. Internal dissension, wagon breakdowns, the loss of livestock, difficult terrain, and extreme weather dogged the travelers. But looming ahead was the most difficult challenge: the impending winter in the Sierra Nevada. As Wallis recounts in his fluid narrative, heavy snow brought widespread starvation and death. Nearly half the party perished, and after four relief efforts, the most shocking aspect of the expedition was discovered: some survivors had resorted to cannibalism. Although the Donner Party has attracted attention over the years and has achieved a certain macabre fascination in Western lore, Wallis succeeds in offering new documentary evidence as well as an absorbing narrative. He provides valuable insight into a 19th-century phenomenon in which thousands of pioneers sought land, new opportunities, and adventure in support of American exceptionalism.

Solid Western history that enhances the understanding of a tragic tale by highlighting the strong human dimension through the accounts of participants before, during, and after the expedition.

Pub Date: May 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-87140-769-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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