My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I never thought I’d choose to read a book about the Donner Party but my love of history and historical fiction had me signing up for an ARC of When Winter Comes from NetGalley. I understand that it is a work a fiction meant to make one think about a moment of American history that in our time has become more of a punchline than the cautionary tale and analysis of human nature and the will to survive that it should be. No one will ever know exactly what happened because like everyone, the survivors have their own demons, coping methods, and prejudices that skew the retellings but Shannon’s descriptive writing puts the reader on that mountain with the pioneers. I found, at times, that it moved slowly but then so did the journey and other times I was simply loath to read on, knowing what was coming but unsure of how descriptive the crucial passages would be. When Winter Comes is a good, interesting read even if the main character, as likable as she is, is just a bit blah.
If you enjoy When Winter Comes and other stories from the United States’s formative years, I recommend Larry Bjornson’s excellent Wide Open which centers on Wild Bill Hickok’s later years when he was Marhsal of Abilene, Kansas and, like When Winter Comes is narrated from the viewpoint of a teenager.