Published Date: April 28, 2009
Publishing Co.: William Morrow
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
A saga that has fascinated people since the late-1840s.
Author Daniel James Brown does a fantastic job of weaving the tale of the doomed emigrant party that we’ve all heard of at some point in our lives. The tale of a group of early Americans, who with big dreams, traveled the wrong path to glorious California and became stuck in the Sierra Nevada mountains as winter hit. Eventually, almost all of them, would have to eat their fallen friends in order to survive.
Brown not only brings light to the every day trials they faced before becoming entangled in Mother Nature’s snare but also highlights the science behind the way people behave in horrific situations, and how the human body handles things like starvation and hypothermia. He paints a brilliant picture of life during this time period before tragedy struck and how the survivors tried to rebuild their lives after.
This has been so thoroughly researched that you’re bound to hear some new tidbits to an old story. The narrative doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects. For instance, one mother boiled ox hide until it became a gelatinous goo to feed her children. Not much for flavor but apparently nutritious. Some members of the camp would boil and re-boil ox bones until they were soft and chewy.
While it is a bleak tale, it is also one of the stubbornness of the human spirit and the adamant will to live.
But, I also wonder why they didn’t start eating the flesh of dead people sooner. I can only imagine the mind set one must get to before they can actually consume human flesh, but there were a few bodies that weren’t touched at all in the beginning even though they had already run out of meat. It feels as though perhaps, a few more people could have survived if they had come to terms with their impending cannibalism sooner.
Just some food for thought.
I’ll show myself out.