impatient with desire book coverReviewed by Erin Nass

The 1840’s saw a massive migration of American pioneers to California. Perhaps the most notorious were a group of 87 individuals who encountered a blizzard and became marooned in the Sierra Nevada. These people were known as the Donner Party and they became noted for their very taboo method of survival: cannibalism. The center of the party consisted of three families who set out from Springfield, Illinois in the spring of 1846. Their wagon train was later joined by other families when they met up with and branched off from a larger wagon train at Little Sandy River.

The Donner party met with hardships when they broke off from the California Trail and instead followed a different path chronicled by a trail captain named Hastings. Despite many warnings from other travellers that the Hastings Cutoff was never actually travelled by Hastings and might be dangerous, the members of the Donner party decided to try their luck.  In the end, this short cut took three week longer causing the wagon train to blow through their supplies too soon and leaving them helpless when they were trapped by early snows in Nevada. For four months, these travellers were stuck in two camps without food and supplies. Of the original 87, 48 survived, many by eating the bodies of those who had died.

Impatient with Desire is a historical fiction based on the events that occurred within that snowbound camp. Written from the perspective of Tamsen Donner, this account is a fascinating look into the circumstances that lead the Donners and their five daughters to travel to California and how they survived the horrific trip. Tamsen wrote letters to her sister which turned into a detailed journal of the trail. Through her eyes, we are given glimpses into the psychological breakdown of her family and their travelling companions, the choices leading to the party’s entrapment, and her heartbreak at watching her children starve and her husband die.

Burton writes that she chose her heroine for this story due to a “consuming interest” in Tamsen Donner over a period of several decades. Burton had made an “Oregon Trail of words” in her almost lifelong research into the Donner family and their fateful trip. She used historical facts whenever possible, but did take poetic license when the story required a dramatic flourish.

Erin fell in love with the written word as a small child and subsequently spent most of her life happily devouring literature.  She works as a freelance news, marketing, and technical writer.  Erin lives just outside of Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

This book was provided free of any obligation by Voice/Hyperion. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.