The long-lost diary of Dr. John Townsend is reconstructed and carries you through the trials and tribulations that this great group of Americans went through. A fascinating read about their adventures and sacrifices to get to the land of “milk and honey.” Filled with some true accounts, and some excerpts from diaries and letters from real and fictitious characters, the book is lend some authenticity of the true account. Armchair Interviews says: Interesting historical fiction of the early settlers. Complete review here
Wendy Hines, Armchair Interviews
“… definitely a fantastic story, and more importantly, a true story of the Stephens-Townsend wagon train that crossed the continent in 1844 to reach California. Why the story has not been told sooner is hard to say. Perhaps this journey was not as dramatic as that of the Donner Party that had to resort to cannibalism a few years later, but the Stephens-Townsend party apparently set the trail, the pass through the mountains known as “Truckee’s Trail” and like the Donner Party, they also had to survive the winter in the mountains—in fact, the Donner Party ended up using one of the cabins the Stephens-Townsend party used… (complete review here)
Reader Views – Tyler R. Tichelaar
“…a riveting read. Close calls with Indian war parties, political treachery, near starvation and freezing to death, and inevitable illnesses and deaths. It’s truly amazing that they made it. Some great observations along the way. I loved this one: A good wife will re-load for you, a great one will take up a knife and slit your enemies’ throats.” (complete review here)
“Classical Values” – Eric Scheie
At first, the story might seem terribly familiar: a party of ox-team emigrants, bound for California in the 1840s. Several families, linked by blood and friendship, venture into the trackless wilderness, become lost in the desert and finally caught in the winter snow high in the Sierra Nevada. They build a few miserable huts and wait for rescue. Yet this is not another retelling of the purgatory suffered by the Donner-Reed Party, but something rarer and a little different. Texas writer Celia Hayes expertly recreates the relatively unknown journey of the Townsend-Murphy Party of 1844, the first to bring their wagons along a previously unknown path up the Truckee River and to muscle them up a sheer cliff to the summit and into California. This daring accomplishment always has been overshadowed by the slow-motion disaster that overtook the Donners and Reeds, in nonfiction and fiction alike.
A pity, because the earlier heroic trek is fascinating. Hayes has done full justice to the characters. Doctor Townsend is a genial and erudite man who knows himself well enough to know that he does not want to be the party leader. Nor does he want to bear the responsibility of leading 50 or so men, women and childrne out into the trackless wilderness. Much of the story is told through Townsend’s personal diary and a handful of letters written by his wife, Elizabeth. The other emigrants of the party are sharply observed. Among them Elisha Stephens, a solitary and eccentric blacksmith who becomes the party’s captain and Old Martin Murphy, whose family and friends make up nearly half the party.
Running as an alternate narration is the voice of Eddie Patterson, rembering in old age what he witnessed as a child of seven or eight. “…Oh, it was a glorious to see… I can close my eyes and see it still, mile after mile of that beautiful green grass, full of wild-flowers it was, rippling in that sweet clean wind…. The wagons coming over the top of the hill, those canvas covers shining in the sun, and the feel of it when we children ran through it in our bare feet, with the sun on our faces, and butterflies and dragon-flies all going every which way in the sunshine…”
The writer has a good ear for conversation and a deft command of period detail, as well as the authentic language of the time. She makes clear the sheer amount of hard physical work that this journey entailed, from hitching up in the morning, to setting up camp at the end of a days travel, all the way from the Mississippi-Missouri River to Sutters’ Fort. She also manages to convey something of the wonder and peril of the emigrant journey across country where they were often forced to blaze their own path. In writing “To Truckee’s Trail” she has convincingly fleshed out a set of people about whom only the barest details are known, and suggested how they managed to avoid the fate which befell a similar party, traveling over the same trail, only two years later.
Kathy Johnson, The Sparks Tribune, 30 September 2007
“…The bottom line is that I really enjoyed To Truckee’s Trail. If you enjoy anything of the American West, the frontier, the folks who opened it and made it our home, I bet you will, too and I recommend this book to you very strongly….. At the very least, if you’re reading this dusty capped-off dry-hole of the Internet tubes, you’ve got someone on your Christmas list who will enjoy it. FWIW, I’m looking forward to her next book, too, which she describes thusly – “Barsetshire with Cypress Trees and a Lot of Sidearms.” My understanding is that it is set in Texas, is about 2000 pages, has cattlemen and Injuns and tons of forgotten Texas history and of course lots of sidearms, so…you know, what’s not to look forward to? We need more of that, to my mind. (complete review here)
TFG at “The Fat Guy”
…Those who enjoy historical fiction or regional American history should also enjoy this imaginative reconstruction of a real months’ long trek from Ohio to near Sacramento. For us in the 21st Century, who fly in a handful of hours over the land that the Stephens-Townsend Party trudged across in months, a detailed and harrowing reconstruction of the bravery and perseverance of one party of overland immigrants can restore a sense of wonder and delight at how far we have traveled in 160 years, and in more than miles… (Complete review here)
CEH Weidel, Blogger News Network