Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eliza P. Donner Houghton

The Expedition of the Donner Party and Its Tragic Fate by Eliza P. Donner Houghton
1998 (originally published in 1911)
Weight: 2 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donating

I first heard about the Donner Party on a cross-country trip with my mom and at-the-time-close-friend, Chris Bale. We were traveling from Georgia to California, up the coast, and then back to Georgia again so we stopped at the Donner Memorial State Park in California. My mother had been telling us about the expedition while we drove. The flora and landscape were beautiful, though the museum seemed dull to me at the time. I bought this 2 lb book in the gift shop because it was written by someone who had been a part of the Donner Party as a little girl and because I thought I would learn more about the whole thing from that book than from the museum.

I think I did. Last night, by chance, I saw The Donner Party movie was free to watch online and so I half-watched it and half-heartedly wrote letters to friends in other states. It had very bad reviews and people claimed it was far too focused on cannibalism. I hear it IS pretty hard to think of anything but food when you are starving so I do not know if it was all that far from the truth, and I don’t know that the truth is unacceptable. It seems like a standard reaction—survival at all costs. In the movie, there is some murder. In the book, it is claimed that only people who died naturally were eaten. They weren’t killed off simply for food. I don’t know what happened. It sounds horrific if you watch the movie or read the book. Side Note: I thought the movie was neither here nor there, and I don’t recommend it per se.

I have held on to this book for some time for a couple reasons. The main one being that the trip to California and back was one of the most amazing trips I have been on, and I hate to let go of the few things I have from that time. The other thing is because, for whatever reason, I trusted the narrator at the time and she became my one source of knowledge on the whole ordeal. I felt loyal to her even though she was just a child when the whole thing went down and would have a very different experience than her adult counterparts. In fact, for years I would be irritated if anyone sensationalized the story and/or talked about it from another perspective than hers. Strange, really. There is always another perspective.

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