The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown
The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride

67%

9 Critic Reviews

...Sarah Graves’s arrival at Johnson’s Ranch is strangely unmoving. We know well the horrid details of her journey, but we don’t really know her. We don’t know any of them. I cared no more about Sarah Graves than I did about Levinah Murphy...
-NY Times

Synopsis

From the #1 bestselling author of The Boys in the Boat comes an unforgettable epic of family, tragedy, and survival on the American frontier

“An ideal pairing of talent and material.… Engrossing.… A deft and ambitious storyteller.” – Mary Roach, New York Times Book Review

In April of 1846, twenty-one-year-old Sarah Graves, intent on a better future, set out west from Illinois with her new husband, her parents, and eight siblings. Seven months later, after joining a party of pioneers led by George Donner, they reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains as the first heavy snows of the season closed the pass ahead of them. In early December, starving and desperate, Sarah and fourteen others set out for California on snowshoes, and, over the next thirty-two days, endured almost unfathomable hardships and horrors.

In this gripping narrative, New York Times bestselling author Daniel James Brown sheds new light on one of the most legendary events in American history. Following every painful footstep of Sarah’s journey with the Donner Party, Brown produces a tale both spellbinding and richly informative.

 

About Daniel James Brown

See more books from this Author
Daniel James Brown is the author of two previous nonfiction books, Under a Flaming Sky and The Indifferent Stars Above. He has taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford. He lives near Seattle.
 
Published April 17, 2009 by William Morrow. 376 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, War. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Feb 14 2016
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Indifferent Stars Above
All: 9 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Above average
on May 20 2010

Wading through the many previous accounts of the ill-fated journey, Brown creates a thorough and unique narrative. A moving man-against-nature tragedy that still resonates today.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Mary Roach on May 01 2009

...Sarah Graves’s arrival at Johnson’s Ranch is strangely unmoving. We know well the horrid details of her journey, but we don’t really know her. We don’t know any of them. I cared no more about Sarah Graves than I did about Levinah Murphy...

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Wisteria Leigh on Jun 24 2009

Brown’s unique style has rich depth as he wraps the context in history like a cocoon of importance around the main event. His contrast between the advances in technology and society in the eastern United States versus the hardship, suffering and pain in the West is an ironic juxtaposition.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Wisteria Leigh on Jun 24 2009

Brown’s unique style has rich depth as he wraps the context in history like a cocoon of importance around the main event. His contrast between the advances in technology and society in the eastern United States versus the hardship, suffering and pain in the West is an ironic juxtaposition. Brown’s history is as gripping as a suspenseful thriller.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Lisa Keipp on Jan 19 2010

The depth of detail Mr. Brown puts into his book in describing the events along the way, to help the reader now far removed from the time and lifestyle understand the efforts, effects and desperation of the party to survive is what makes “The Indifferent Stars Above” outstanding among the reams of other books on the same topic.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Below average
Reviewed by Reagan Upshaw on Jun 22 2009

Much of this information is fascinating to the history buff, but Brown can let his facts run away with him.

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The Seattle Times

Good
Reviewed by John B. Saul on May 10 2009

...Brown’s use of the present to explain the past is what makes “The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride” such a remarkable book.

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Journey With Jesus

Above average
on Mar 06 2016

...in his empathetic retelling, these were ordinary people who were heroic in the sense that they chose hope and the will to survive over "the indifferent stars above" (from a poem by Yeats). Today a national historical landmark, state park, memorials, towns, and a lake all commemorate this survival adventure with the Donner name.

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https://bookpage.com

Below average
Reviewed by Rebecca Steinitz on Jul 01 2009

For much of the book, Graves is an inadequate heroine. Brown himself points out that there is “little record” of her, and she often seems less a focal point than a minor character.

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Reader Rating for The Indifferent Stars Above
87%

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