We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
 >   > 
Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West | [Ethan Rarick]

Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West

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.
Regular Price:$22.95
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

Publisher's Summary

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. Rarick resists both the gruesomely sensationalist accounts of the Donner party as well as later attempts to turn the survivors into archetypal pioneer heroes. "The Donner Party," Rarick writes, "is a story of hard decisions that were neither heroic nor villainous. Often, the emigrants displayed a more realistic and typically human mixture of generosity and selfishness, an alloy born of necessity."

A fast-paced, heart-wrenching, clear-eyed narrative history, Desperate Passage casts new light on one of America's most horrific encounters between the dream of a better life and the harsh realities such dreams so often must confront.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2009 Ethan Rarick; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (407 )
5 star
 (152)
4 star
 (166)
3 star
 (56)
2 star
 (16)
1 star
 (17)
Overall
4.2 (330 )
5 star
 (149)
4 star
 (124)
3 star
 (37)
2 star
 (12)
1 star
 (8)
Story
4.1 (330 )
5 star
 (129)
4 star
 (131)
3 star
 (51)
2 star
 (13)
1 star
 (6)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Mark 10-28-12
    Mark 10-28-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Incredible Story"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This story is researched well and told in an exciting way. Having visited some of the sites that the Donner party passed through, it is remarkable that they even made it to Donner Lake. The hardships of traveling across the Salt Lake desert almost finished the group. However, at Donner Lake their troubles really began. It is difficult to imagine how bad it must have been at the lake for these people. They attempted to cross the mountains in their terrible condition, weak from not eating, striking out with the relief parties, in snow 20 feet deep, with small children who had to be carried. Given what they faced at the lake camps, the cannibalism, for which the story is known, is much easier to understand.


    Which character – as performed by Christopher Prince – was your favorite?

    Stanton, the single man, with no need to risk his life, was the most honorable character. He had no real reason to go back for the others expect on principle and it cost him dearly.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Corey SHEFFIELD, MA, United States 10-15-12
    Corey SHEFFIELD, MA, United States 10-15-12 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fantastic!"

    Love the vocabulary (vexatious, onerous, amiable) and the metaphors ("buyoed by optimism"). Certainly feels like I really understand the terrain and hardships so much better. Most focus on the Donners alone, but an emphasis on the Reeds is interesting and lively. This incredibly researched narrative history will leave you wanting more. I already started looking for more books by the same author. Enjoy!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    10-04-12
    10-04-12 Listener Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "WOW!"
    Would you listen to Desperate Passage again? Why?

    This book was difficult to leave.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Desperate Passage?

    The entire book was wonderful.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes, in parts, I cried.


    Any additional comments?

    A wonderful read!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeremy CHICAGO, IL, United States 09-28-12
    Jeremy CHICAGO, IL, United States 09-28-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    30
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "How can a story about cannabilism be so inspiring?"
    What did you love best about Desperate Passage?

    The facts are undeniable and horrifying- settlers resorting to cannablism. What I found most shocking though was how inspiring a story it was. I have never been so motivated as these people were to pick up and leave my life and travel into the complete unknown.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Desperate Passage?

    When the Donner party is rescued was not how I imagened.


    What does Christopher Prince bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    After his introduction about cannablism, which was hard to listen to- he calms it down and is more subtle and matter of fact.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Just what I said earlier. It is hard to wrap your brain around cannabilism but after you read -- you get it. And somehow, it's still scary but you understand.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen Chesterton, IN, United States 09-25-12
    Ellen Chesterton, IN, United States 09-25-12 Member Since 2008

    I'm a bibliophile since early childhood. Love speculative fiction, odd premises, mystery novels that teach about different places and times.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    221
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    330
    148
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    4
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Compelling historic view"

    This could have been a very grotty book. It's not. It's a very clear eyed view of the Oregon/Calfornia trail. And the very real risks involved. I found it quite compelling.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard 07-23-12
    Richard 07-23-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    54
    23
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great story"

    What I really loved about this book was that it didn't try to make someone into a hero or heroine. We read about real people, making decisions for themselves, their families, their pets. One decision different can mean life and death; and it sometimes is just a toss of the coin. At one point a person within the Donner party is the savior and at other times, they make decisions for their personal survival. This story is reality and I really enjoyed it because it was not dressed up as something it wasn't. The people were real with all their frailties. Narration was excellent and held my interest. There were times I drove around the block a few times because I didn't want to shut the story down. Good read and good reader!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keith 05-11-12
    Keith 05-11-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    41
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Breaks down commonly held myths of this story"
    If you could sum up Desperate Passage in three words, what would they be?

    Well researched


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Desperate Passage?

    The choices and consequences of the party that led to their situation. Although I knew some about the expansionist period and the Oregon Trail, this book filled in a lot of the details in a fascinating book that kept me interested throughout. No fiction could be more interesting than recounts of true story.


    What does Christopher Prince bring to the story that you wouldn???t experience if you just read the book?

    Not sure if I paid attention to what the narrator brought to the story; I paid more attention to the story and listening to the events play out.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, this book was riveting and kept me interested,it was not quite good enough to make me listen to app 12 hours in one sitting.


    Any additional comments?

    Although I mostly knew the fate of this party it was fascinating to hear about all of the details and events in a well-researched book and well-written book.

    The details in this book were kept to the ones that were important to the events described in that section.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank You

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.