Book Review: Impatient with Desire by: Gabrielle Burton



Publish Date:
March 9, 2010

From Publisher for Review


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In the summer of 1846, Tamsen Donner, her husband, George, their five daughters, and eighty other pioneers embarked on the California-Oregon Trail. During that ill-fated trip, early snows trapped them for over four months in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Almost half the group perished, and some resorted to unimaginable means to survive - making the Donner Party an enduringly fascinating episode in American history.

Set during those long, snowbound months and told through the hauntingly imagined journal entries and letters of Tamsen, Impatient with Desire is psychologically penetrating, dramatic, provocative, romantic, and intimate. Remarkable passages and tenderly acute, heartbreaking scenes will leave readers breathless.

Review: Tamsen Donner, along with the rest of the Donner Party, set out for open land and new opportunity. The same trip thousands of others made over the Oregon Trail, with one exception that makes this group of travelers immortalized in history. They were stuck in the mountains for months and had to turn to sustaining themselves in one of the worst ways imaginable – cannibalism. Tamsen wrote in her journal constantly as she was an educated woman and teacher in times where women only counted as homemakers. In truth, Tamsen’s journal was lost to time, but Impatient with Desire is a beautiful and touching recreation of what that lost tome could have contained.

This isn’t just a journal told in entries and letters to Tamsen’s sister, but a memoir, which gives us the ability to see her whole life in a series of flashbacks woven into the tale of the four months the families spent trapped and starving in a mountain impasse just a hundred miles from Sacramento. The entries include the daily trials of keeping everyone alive. Rather play up the ultimate event of cannibalism; instead this story is a heart-breaking tale of adventure, pioneer spirit, and familial love.

This is an excellent book, well-written and definitely makes you think about the lengths you would go to make sure your family is safe and sound. It's a book you will devour, yet not want it to end. This story will stay with you long after you've put it down.


  1. Dear Star,
    Thank you for your thoughtful, insightful review of my novel, Impatient with Desire. I especially like the phrase you used: "adventure, pioneer spirit, and familial love." I appreciate your support.
    Gabrielle Burton

  2. I read this book and totally loved it too. Thanks for the great review -- I completely agree. This book should be in all book clubs -- perfect for that! (Short, exquisitely written, and themes we can all relate to.)


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