Title: The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride
Author: Daniel James Brown
Publisher: William Morrow, April 2009
Summary: Upon hearing the words “Donner Party,” it’s likely that most people remember the most sordid and sensational details of this tragedy. This new account of the Donner party tries to bring the reader past the taboo subject of cannibalism that has been associated with this ill-fated journey for so long. Yes, the facts remain the same, but our interpretation and understanding will be changed by reading this book. The author has gone to great lengths to shine a new light on the emigrants and their reasons for making certain decisions. He focuses his attention on one member of the party, Sarah Graves Fosdick, recently married and traveling with her family and new husband.
Using our current knowledge of the physical and psychological effects of trauma, Daniel Brown has set out to answer many of the questions surrounding the Donner Party tragedy. For example, why did the single men in the group fare so much worse than people traveling with their families? Why did the emigrants suffer the effects of starvation so quickly? In our recent past we have seen protesters on hunger strikes that lasted weeks longer without food than did Sarah and her companions. What psychological effects did the survivors suffer as a result of being on the brink of death for so long? Brown helps us to understand why certain choices were made and the impact these choices had on everyone involved. Imagine being on a camping trip without a tent, lantern, flashlight, stove, bug repellent, sleeping bag, toiletries, or any other amenity. Imagine you cannot bathe, brush your teeth, or wash you clothes and bedding for several months. Now imagine you are surrounded by mountains and several feet of snow and are surviving on leather shoe straps and boiled bones as your only source of food. It’s unfathomable to me. It’s no surprise to find that the Donner party’s fate was sealed by a man so greedy he was willing to divert these poor people from their original trail to Oregon to an uncharted (unbeknownst to them) path across a treacherous mountain range to his fledgling town in California. This is not a dry historical account but a moving and informative tale about brave Americans and their search for a better life.
Who will like this book?: Readers who like American history and adventure stories.
Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator
Title: Water Ghosts
Author: Shawna Yang Ryan
Publisher: Penguin Press, April 2009
Summary: According to Chinese superstition, those who die by drowning will seek the living to take their place.
It’s 1928 and the residents of Locke, California and the surrounding towns are getting ready for the Dragon Boat Festival. All is going smoothly until an unknown boat drifts to shore. The boat is carrying three bedraggled Chinese women and seems to have come out of nowhere. One of the women is Ming Wai, the wife that Richard Fong left behind in China several years ago. Richard is now the manager of a successful gambling parlor in Locke and was never able to return to China for his wife. While Ming Wai was languishing in China, Richard was living comfortably as a bachelor in California, complete with his own prostitute.Most of the townspeople are confused about the arrival of the three women but Poppy See, the brothel madam is suspicious. Poppy is a seer and had a premonition of bodies washing ashore before the women arrived. Now strange things are happening to the town and the people living there.
Water Ghosts is a wonderfully written tale of love, loss, and the consequences of betrayal.
Who will like this book? Fans of historical fiction and mystery.
Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator
Title: Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival
Author: Norman Ollestad
Publisher: Ecco Press. May 2009
Summary: I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. Granted, I am an extreme adventure reader junkie, but I was not expecting to be fascinated by the reckless yet charismatic parent of the author. The book opens with the 11-year old author “waking up” in a plane that crashed in a blizzard twenty years ago. The chapters alternate between the how the young boy manages to survive the crash and how he got there – in large part due to his father. The writing is average but the stories of his childhood adventures with his daredevil father are not.
In one passage Ollestad describes his father’s ‘madness/passion’ :
“The cranium shelf rising off his forehead bumpy and uneven, the cluster of diamonds in the blue of his eyes fragile cracked windows, and I saw someone younger and full of grand ambitions and I thought about how he had wanted to be a professional basketball player. He looked at me as if into a mirror, studying me, like I was holding something that he admired, even desired.”
I was compelled to sit down for a long afternoon and just finish the tale.
Who will like this book?: If you enjoyed Krakauer’s tales, or are intrigued by the extreme adventures of the likes of Tori Murden McClure [who rowed across the Atlantic Ocean solo (and who is appearing at the Library on Mon. May 18 at 7 pm)] you will enjoy this book.
Recommended by: Karen, Deputy Town Librarian
Title: So Brave, Young, and Handsome
Author: Leif Enger
Summary: It’s finally here! Leif Enger’s second book after his best-selling debut novel Peace Like a River.
In 1915 Minnesota, Monte Becket is an author struggling to write his second novel. Written on a whim, his first novel was a smashing success. Now Monte is starting to feel like he really only had one good book in him. When Monte befriends Glendon Hale, a fugitive outlaw, he gets the chance to live out a real adventure. Monte is encouraged by his wife Susannah to accompany Glendon on his journey to Mexico to find the wife he abruptly left so many years ago. Glendon is looking for forgiveness while Monte is looking for inspiration. Only when they are on their way to Mexico do they realize that Glendon’s sins of the past have not been forgotten and the two are being pursued by an ex-Pinkerton turned bounty hunter.
This is a story about relationships, loyalty, forgiveness, and the importance of taking risks to find out what kind of person you really are.
Who will like this book? Anyone who enjoys old-time westerns or just a really nice story.
If you like this book, try this: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Recommended by:Sue, Circulation Coordinator