Knopf, Apr 2001, 24.00, 317 pp.
In 1846, the families leaving Illinois for the West Coast feel ecstatic about the success of their journey even though they have heard some harrowing tales. For instance, the Reed family consisting of a father and mother and four children headed by James expects to achieve a golden life in California.
However, problems occur in Nevada as jealousy and politics surface. James is forced to leave by himself with his family staying with the remainder of the Donner Party. Soon storms batter the group in the Sierra Nevadas while James tries to find help to save his family.
SNOW MOUNTAIN PASSAGE is an intriguing novelization of the disastrous Donner Party. The story line alternates viewpoints between James's desperate efforts to rescue his beloved family and through the six-decade-old memory of one of his daughters looking back to the disaster. The characters come alive as well as readers get a deep inside look at the human condition when tragedy strikes. James D. Houston provides a harrowing tale filled with passion and anger while making his present and future flashback techniques not only work, but prove he is quite an author of historical fiction.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner