DPToday’s book is something of a personal triumph for me, as I have finally read it after having it in my Kindle queue for a couple of years. I am very pleased to have finally tackled Desperate Passage: The Donner Party’s Perilous Journey West by Ethan Rarick, a harrowing, yet compelling account of the infamous Donner Party’s journey west.

I, like most people, had a general knowledge of what the Donner Party was all about and what they endured, but in his book, Desperate Passage, Mr. Rarick fills in the details and tell the entire story that not only illuminates the perils the Donner family faced, but in general how difficult it was for pioneers to migrate to the west in the mid-19th century.

About Desperate Passage: The Donner Party’s Perilous Journey West by Ethan Rarick: “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.”

In Desperate Passage, we read the personal stories of those involved in the doomed trip of the Donner Party. As a result, we get to know the players and their personal stories that allows us to look beyond the macabre and form a better understanding of the brink of human desperation.

I really enjoyed this book and have a much better understanding of this event in history. I also have a much better appreciation for what people in our past had to face in their yearning for a better life. I for one will never complain again that there is no steamed broccoli on the local Chinese buffet.

Desperate Passage: The Donner Party’s Perilous Journey West by Ethan Rarick is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers.