Title: Impatient with Desire
Author: Gabrielle Burton
Genre: Historical fiction
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.