Arts and Entertainment

Recounting of a Donner tale

Recounting of a Donner tale

Author Daniel James Brown speaks about his book "The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Story of a Donner Party Bride" at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, in the Port Townsend City Council Chamber, 540 Water St., Port Townsend.

Admission to the Jefferson County Historical Society First Friday Lecture is by donation, which supports the society's programs countywide.

Brown earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California - Berkeley and a master's degree in English from the University of California - Los Angeles. He taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford University, worked as a technical editor and instructional designer at Microsoft and now lives near Redmond.

"The Indifferent Stars Above" is his most recent work. It recounts the extraordinary journey of a young woman whose fate became entangled with the tragic Donner Party.

Sarah Graves was 21 and a newlywed when she and her husband set out with her family from Vermont for California on April 12, 1846. Seven months later, after joining a party of emigrants led by George Donner, they left Truckee Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains just as the first heavy snows of the season closed the pass ahead of them. After a series of desperate attempts to cross the mountains, the party improvised cabins and slaughtered what remained of their livestock. By early December they were beginning to starve.

In this gripping narrative, Brown takes the reader along on every painful footstep of Sarah's journey. He weaves into the story insights from a variety of modern scientific perspectives - psychology, physiology, forensics and archaeology - producing a tale that is not only spell-binding but richly informative. The book is a finalist for the Washington State Book Award 2010.

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