THE MOTHERS by Vardia Fisher
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The Donner tragedy has intrigued a number of writers in recent years. There was Julia Altroochi's epic poem, Snow Covered Wagon; there was Hoffman Birney's Grim Journey; there was George Stewart's Ordeal by Hunger -- all exceptional, but none achieving any degree of success in sales. Bernard De Voto's The Year of Decision brought the story into the news again, as part of a grim pattern of westward seeking. Vardia Fisher has made it live, given it a somewhat new slant, and roused one's interest in tracing down the details of the various families, more intimately presented than in any other version. His story differs in focussing the interest not on the Donners and the small group which wintered with them, but on the larger colony that lived at the lake, and on the successive ventures across the Pass. The Reeds, the Eddys, the Breens, the Murphys, the Graves -- and the rather pitiful assortment of younger single men who proved such broken reeds to lean on, -- these are the characters of his panoramic novel of the struggle of the mothers to save their young. It is overwritten, it is often repetitious, it labors the point -- but this epic of human endurance, with all its horror of detail, carves itself into the imagination. It keeps one reading, even knowing the end. I don't think the book has the sweep of Children of God; but it comes closer to that market.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1943
Publisher: Vanguard