The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride

The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride

by Daniel James Brown


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From the #1 bestselling author of The Boys in the Boat and Facing the Mountain comes an unforgettable epic of family, tragedy, and survival on the American frontier

“An ideal pairing of talent and material. … Engrossing. … A deft and ambitious storyteller.” — Mary Roach, New York Times Book Review

In April of 1846, twenty-one-year-old Sarah Graves, intent on a better future, set out west from Illinois with her new husband, her parents, and eight siblings. Seven months later, after joining a party of pioneers led by George Donner, they reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains as the first heavy snows of the season closed the pass ahead of them. In early December, starving and desperate, Sarah and fourteen others set out for California on snowshoes, and, over the next thirty-two days, endured almost unfathomable hardships and horrors.

In this gripping narrative, New York Times bestselling author Daniel James Brown sheds new light on one of the most legendary events in American history. Following every painful footstep of Sarah’s journey with the Donner Party, Brown produces a tale both spellbinding and richly informative.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061348112
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/22/2015
Series: P.S. Series
Pages: 337
Sales rank: 26,457
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Daniel James Brown is the author of The Boys in the Boat and Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894. He lives in the country east of Redmond, Washington, with his wife and two daughters.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Prologue 1

Part 1 A Sprightly Boy and a Romping Girl 7

Chapter 1 Home and Heart 9

Chapter 2 Mud and Merchandise 25

Chapter 3 Grass 45

Part 2 The Barren Earth 59

Chapter 4 Dust 61

Chapter 5 Deception 76

Chapter 6 Salt, Sage, and Blood 93

Part 3 The Meager by the Meager Were Devoured 117

Chapter 7 Cold Calculations 119

Chapter 8 Desperation 140

Chapter 9 Christmas Feasts 159

Chapter 10 The Heart on the Mountain 176

Chapter 11 Madness 189

Chapter 12 Hope and Despair 204

Chapter 13 Heroes and Scoundrels 222

Part 4 In the Reproof of Chance 243

Chapter 14 Shattered Souls 245

Chapter 15 Golden Hills, Black Oaks 256

Chapter 16 Peace 264

Chapter 17 In the Years Beyond 267

Epilogue 274

Appendix: The Donner Party Encampments 289

Acknowledgments 293

Chapter Notes 295

Sources 325

What People are Saying About This

Irvin Molotsky

“A compelling retelling of the ghastly events surrounding the Donner party. Daniel James Brown, using one survivor’s experience as his focus, moves beyond the cardboard figures depicted in previous accounts and shows how the lucky few endured and survived.”

Nina Burleigh

“In this gripping narrative, Brown reveals the extremes of endurance that underlie the history of this nation, and more than that, of humanity in any part of the world, even today, surviving great peril in search of a better life.”

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