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To Stay Alive

March 29, 2017

by Skila Brown


First of all, it is a quick read with a fantastic story woven in historical research. The pages vary in length, some only contain a handful of words. They still contain great power, as it is written in poem form; the strongest words picked to convey they merciless situation. It is not a gory story also, although strong content within as it tells the tragic stories of the unfortunate people in the Donner party.

Following another family before they set off to new adventures through the eyes of a teenage girl. They leave with plenty of time in the spring left, with fate only to intervene.

*Possible Spoiler Content Below*


A few small decisions ended being the turning points for their entire lives. Getting to a town and meeting the Donner family and several others, they change paths to follow a shortcut, saving time and supplies. However, the shortcut is not fit for the cattle and wagons, so they must turn back, losing valuable time and supplies. Early snowfall also impacted them, it is speculated that if it would have held up for a mere 24 hours they would have survived the trail.

The beginning is almost too suspenseful to manage, because everyone knows how this story ends (for some). When the snow gets too high they cannot move for days and weeks, becoming ill and weak, dangerously low on food with no game to be found to sustain all the families. Two men leave for supplies and help, one returns with two Indian guides and supplies on a mule from town. Another time they try to leave for supplies, they must turn back. A third attempt is made, with our main character trying to make a break for it, guilt ridden to be cared for by her mother, whom has no food to share with her family.

The trip is tragic, with the fateful decision being made. They get lost, and wander in circles 18 miles away from the town they were searching for before one person finding a house, and the other rescued by it’s owner.

The writing is brilliant, you felt for all of the characters, and the historical research  shines through with authenticity in every sentence.

A five star read! I finished it in two days, and still cannot get it out of my mind.

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