THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD. Ok, yes, it's about the Donner Party and it does have cannibalism, but this isn't some gruesome expose. It's a thoughtful, detailed, engrossing, and totally fascinating look at Westward expansion, life on the trail, and California history. I didn't want to stop reading it and can't stop talking about it.— Flannery
We all know the story of the Donner party, or at least, we all know how it ends. Despite the fact that I knew what lay ahead, I found myself on the edge of my seat as I read about the party’s journey across the plains. Thanks to thorough research and engaging writing, Wallis has managed to tell this with greater accuracy and humanity than ever before. Fascinating, gruesome, and gut wrenching, this book is not for the faint of heart.— Jade
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence
Finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award
A Publishers Weekly Holiday Guide History Pick
“A book so gripping it can scarcely be put down.... Superb.” —New York Times Book Review
"WESTWARD HO! FOR OREGON AND CALIFORNIA!"
In the eerily warm spring of 1846, George Donner placed this advertisement in a local newspaper as he and a restless caravan prepared for what they hoped would be the most rewarding journey of a lifetime. But in eagerly pursuing what would a century later become known as the "American dream," this optimistic-yet-motley crew of emigrants was met with a chilling nightmare; in the following months, their jingoistic excitement would be replaced by desperate cries for help that would fall silent in the deadly snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada.
We know these early pioneers as the Donner Party, a name that has elicited horror since the late 1840s. With The Best Land Under Heaven, Wallis has penned what critics agree is “destined to become the standard account” (Washington Post) of the notorious saga. Cutting through 160 years of myth-making, the “expert storyteller” (True West) compellingly recounts how the unlikely band of early pioneers met their fate. Interweaving information from hundreds of newly uncovered documents, Wallis illuminates how a combination of greed and recklessness led to one of America’s most calamitous and sensationalized catastrophes. The result is a “fascinating, horrifying, and inspiring” (Oklahoman) examination of the darkest side of Manifest Destiny.