Book Review: Impatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton

Title: Impatient with Desire
Author: Gabrielle Burton
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Voice
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the author
First line: Imagine all the roads a woman and a man walk until they reach the road they’ll walk together.

My whole life my heart was big with hope and impatient with desire. When anyone ever went anyplace, I always wondered: What will they see? What is there that is not here? What waits for them that I am missing?

I cannot bear it if no one knows what has gone on here. What I have seen. What was waiting for me here that I have not missed.

Impatient with Desire is the fictionalized journal of Tamsen Donner, wife of George Donner, leader of the Donner Party. Gabrielle Burton has taken one of the most sensationalized episodes of American history and distilled it down to the essence of one amazing woman, her spirit, her fierce love for her family, her love of adventure, and her strength.

Tamsen and George Donner are excited about the way the nation is expanding and growing, and they want to be a part of it. They put together a family of travelers to go overland in wagons from Springfield, Illinois, to the California territory. Along the way, they will make a fateful decision to take the Hastings Cutoff, which results in the group being stranded in the harsh winter of the Sierra Nevada Mountains for four months, during which they will have to do the unthinkable to survive.

The terms “Donner Party” and “cannibalism” have become synonymous in US history, but there is so much more to the story than the choice they made in order to allow their children to survive. In author Gabrielle Burton’s capable hands, Tamsen becomes a vivid character, a feisty early feminist, excited about her equitable marriage to the equally adventurous George Donner. It is known that Tamsen kept a journal during their journey, but it was never found. Ms. Burton spent years researching the Donner Party, and then tracing their steps. The depth of her knowledge of Tamsen comes through in this well-written historical novel.

I read Impatient with Desire in a day and a half, not going to sleep last night until I had read the last heartbreaking pages. Tamsen Donner is a character that will stick with me for a long time, and I will definitely be reading Ms. Burton’s non-fiction memoir, Searching for Tamsen Donner.

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17 Responses to Book Review: Impatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton

  1. Mandy says:

    Ooh, this one looks really interesting! I am always looking for good historical fiction.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Mandy – this is definitely one you should pick up. 🙂

  2. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna
    says:

    Wow, this one sounds good! Thanks for the review.
    .-= S. Krishna´s last blog ..Book Review: The Passage – Justin Cronin =-.

  3. I’d never heard of the Donner party until I started reading reviews of this book. It really sounds fascinating.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – it is a fascinating story – and this book is a good way to get acquainted with it.

  4. Jo-Jo says:

    Thanks for the review. I’m sure this is a fascinating book and hopefully I will be able to get my hands on it at some point!
    .-= Jo-Jo´s last blog ..Teaser Tuesday-June 8 =-.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Growing up here in California we always learned about the Donner Party every year in history. I’ve always been fascinated by the story of what went wrong. I’d love to read this one to get another perspective.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathleen – This book definitely gives a different way to look at the tragedy.

  6. I’m really hoping to read this one day. My family used to go camping every summer near the Donner Pass and we’d walk part of the trail. It’s a part of history I’ve always been interested in.
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: Play Time =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Wendy – that would be an eerie feeling, to know that you were at the place where they suffered so much.

  7. Dear Carrie,
    Thank you so much for your thoughtful review of my novel. I’m so happy that Tamsen became real for you. I love the way you say: ” one amazing woman, her spirit, her fierce love for her family, her love of adventure, and her strength.” That was my deepest hope: to rescue the Donner Party, and especially Tamsen, from being a macabre cultural joke.
    Re your comment to Wendy about it being an eerie feeling to be there where they all suffered so much, I have gone twice. The first time I gave up smoking there because for me it was a sacred place sanctified by death and I had a choice where Tamsen had little choice–I tell this story in Searching for Tamsen Donner. The 2nd time was last summer when my family and I went back to walk the 7 mile walk between the campsites that Tamsen walked at least twice. I spent some time by myself at Alder Creek where the Donners were and it’s a peaceful serene meadow. I’m not formally religious but for me it’s a holy spot and not at all eerie.
    I appreciate your support.
    All best,
    GB

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Ms. Burton – I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere so infused with history as Alder Creek. That would be an amazing experience – and I can see why it would feel like a sacred spot. I am definitely looking forward to reading your non-fiction book about Tamsen.

  8. Kim
    Twitter: BookstoreK
    says:

    Encouraging to read your review. I attended the panel that this book was discussed. When I walked into the panel, I was going to buy the book, by the time I left, I had changed my mind, it was just a boring and scattered panel.
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..Eye Candy for Book Lovers =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kim – that’s really too bad that the panel wasn’t very good – because the book was fantastic.

  9. Pingback: Impatient With Desire: A Novel, by Gabrielle Burton – Book Review | Linus's Blanket