Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West - Ethan Rarick An excellent reportage of the travail of this doomed trek. All the where, when, who, why and how questions are, if not definitively answered, thoroughly analyzed. Some questions still today cannot be conclusively answered. Over the years opposing views have been voiced. Who were the real heroes, who the villains and who the cowards? Why did this expedition go so tragically wrong? The push westward to Oregon and California over the plains and the mountains during the years of the 1840s-1860s, a 2000 mile trek most often starting from Independence, Missouri, did not always end so disastrously. What went wrong here? That is the theme of this book. Cannibalism did occur but the exact details are contradictory. These contradictions, they too are analyzed, and the death tolls are studied: by sex, by age and by social ties.

Please note that the individuals studied,both those of the journey and those in the relief efforts, were numerous. In this book you do not get "inside the individuals' heads". The book is too serious a study for that. Instead possible motivations and fears are listed. Previous life events of the individuals are given so we can understand their temperaments.

The events unroll in an amazingly exciting/gruesome fashion. There is no need for fiction. Real life events are startling and painful. When you think you have reached the end, you think the problems must end now, you will find only more problems await: another blizzard another moral decision to be tackled. These poor people!

I listened to the audiobook. There is nothing much to say about the narration. It was just fine, although in my ears I heard a reflection of pity which sometimes annoyed me. Just give us the facts, buddy. Don't get me wrong; this is no big problem.

Here is another book that may be of interest: The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-60, though this is not just about the Donner Expedition.