The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep: Voices from the Donner Party
August 29, 2020
|Allan Wolf (English ’85, MFA ’88)
In 1846, a group of emigrants bound for California face a choice: continue on their planned route or take a shortcut into the wilderness. Eighty-nine of them opt for the untested trail, a decision that plunges them into danger and desperation and, finally, the unthinkable.
From extraordinary poet and novelist Allan Wolf comes a riveting retelling of the ill-fated journey of the Donner party across the Sierra Nevadas during the winter of 1846–1847. Brilliantly narrated by multiple voices, including world-weary, taunting, and all-knowing Hunger itself, this novel-in-verse examines a notorious chapter in history from various perspectives, among them caravan leaders George Donner and James Reed, Donner’s scholarly wife, two Miwok Indian guides, the Reed children, a sixteen-year-old orphan, and even a pair of oxen.
Comprehensive back matter includes an author’s note, select character biographies, statistics, a timeline of events, and more. Unprecedented in its detail and sweep, this haunting epic raises stirring questions about moral ambiguity, hope and resilience, and hunger of all kinds.