Snow Mountain Passage by James D. Houston

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 2 Critic Reviews



Snow Mountain Passage is a powerful retelling of the most dramatic of our pioneer stories—the ordeal of the Donner Party, with its cast of young and old risking all, its imprisoning snows, its rumors of cannibalism. James Houston takes us inside this central American myth in a compelling new way that only a novelist can achieve.

The people whose dreams, courage, terror, ingenuity, and fate we share are James Frazier Reed, one of the leaders of the Donner Party, and his wife and four children—in particular his eight-year-old daughter, Patty. From the moment we meet Reed—proud, headstrong, yet a devoted husband and father—traveling with his family in the "Palace Car," a huge, specially built covered wagon transporting the Reeds in grand style, the stage is set for trouble. And as they journey across the country, thrilling to new sights and new friends, coping with outbursts of conflict and constant danger, trouble comes. It comes in the fateful choice of a wrong route, which causes the group to arrive at the foot of the Sierra Nevada too late to cross into the promised land before the snows block the way. It comes in the sudden fight between Reed and a drover—a fight that exiles Reed from the others, sending him solo over the mountains ahead of the storms.

We follow Reed during the next five months as he travels around northern California, trying desperately to find means and men to rescue his family. And through the amazingly imagined "Trail Notes" of Patty Reed, who recollects late in life her experiences as a child, we also follow the main group, progressively stranded and starving on the Nevada side of the Sierras.

Snow Mountain Passage is an extraordinary tale of pride and redemption. What happens—who dies, who survives, and why—is brilliantly, grippingly told.

From the Hardcover edition.

About James D. Houston

See more books from this Author
James D. Houston is the coauthor with his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, of the bestselling Farewell to Manzanar, and author of six other novels, including Continental Drift, Love Life, and The Last Paradise. His nonfiction works include Californians and In the Ring of Fire: A Pacific Basin Journey. He lives in Santa Cruz, California, in the house where Patty Reed spent the last years of her life.
Published December 18, 2007 by Knopf. 338 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Travel, Action & Adventure. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Snow Mountain Passage

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

Houston (Continental Drift, not reviewed, etc.) subtly links the acquisitive energies of these and other adventurers to the pride that had set Reed apart from, and in opposition to, his westering companions (his family of six had traveled in a lavishly furnished "Palace Car" that exhausted the ox...

| Read Full Review of Snow Mountain Passage

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

In making Reed central to the story, Houston is true to history (the Donner brothers were marginal players in the drama) as he presents a compelling portrait of a man who was a mixture of renegade and hero, his unrealistic dreams of grandeur imperiling his family.

| Read Full Review of Snow Mountain Passage

Reader Rating for Snow Mountain Passage

An aggregated and normalized score based on 33 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review