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 Audiobook

Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West

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 -

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

4.1 (476 )
5 star
 (191)
4 star
 (186)
3 star
 (65)
2 star
 (17)
1 star
 (17)
Overall
4.3 (391 )
5 star
 (190)
4 star
 (138)
3 star
 (42)
2 star
 (13)
1 star
 (8)
Story
4.2 (388 )
5 star
 (164)
4 star
 (148)
3 star
 (55)
2 star
 (14)
1 star
 (7)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    8dove8 NY, United States 02-05-13
    8dove8 NY, United States 02-05-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    124
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Horror...suspenseful...but ultimately inspiring"
    What other book might you compare Desperate Passage to and why?

    Many true artic and sea survival stories...but much closer to home and more powerful...


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Several...but I won't spoil the story...


    Any additional comments?

    Well worth the listen...interesting history of American exploration and expansion westward...with details of daily life and personal accounts from journals, diaries, and letters... a fascinating look back into the past...

    It made me imagine..." what if...???"

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    H. Anthony Melbourne Australia 02-04-13
    H. Anthony Melbourne Australia 02-04-13 Listener Since 2008

    Lizzie

    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    28
    16
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Enthralling book"

    This is an absolutely marvellous read; what an epic journey full of sadness and heroism.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ed Live Oak, FL, United States 12-16-12
    Ed Live Oak, FL, United States 12-16-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    22
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Captivating"
    Where does Desperate Passage rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?


    Top 10.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Makes me appreciate life more & more every time I think of the story.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    christina m. groetzinger warren, pa United States 11-28-12
    christina m. groetzinger warren, pa United States 11-28-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    35
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    32
    26
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    5
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Extraordinary Story"
    Where does Desperate Passage rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This story was so well narrated and the historical information was very enlightening and interesting and I really enjoyed learning about this historical event......would recommend


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan PUNTA GORDA, FL, United States 11-19-12
    Susan PUNTA GORDA, FL, United States 11-19-12 Member Since 2016

    Profesionl, hard working woman who travels weekly, enjoys life. My best Friends are Michael and Scooter. Nonfiction books are the best!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    65
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    229
    60
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    4
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Dont pass this book up!!!!"
    Would you listen to Desperate Passage again? Why?

    To remember the strength of the human heart and what these brave imigrants went thru. Look at our world now compared to what it must have looked like to them...


    What other book might you compare Desperate Passage to and why?

    None so far but It's history, its the truth, would I have the strength? the courage?


    Have you listened to any of Christopher Prince’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, but I will be looking for more.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The whole listen was hard to put down, I put myself in their places, with my children, friends, what decissions would I have made? I probably would have eaten anything or anyone!!!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kindle Customer 10-29-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I felt like I was stranded with the Donners."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I had heard this story many times in the past. It was a great account of what happened according to the journals and historical information we now have.


    Have you listened to any of Christopher Prince’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No.


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

    This book made me sad to think of the horrid things these pioneers had to endure and the choices they had to make in order for them or their families to survive. I kept having visions of my own 4 year old grandson having to live thru this. It brought very vivid scenes to my imagination.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MP 10-28-12
    MP 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
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    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 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    45
    6
    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

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.