I was more than excited to accept the new book, Answer Creek by Ashley E. Sweeney. I loved her first book, Eliza Waite. I thank Caitlin Hamilton Summie for sending me a copy at no charge for my honest review.
About Answer Creek:
From the award-winning author of Eliza Waite comes a gripping tale of adventure and survival based on the true story of the ill-fated Donner Party on their 2,200-mile trek on the Oregon–California Trail from 1846 to ’47.
Nineteen-year-old Ada Weeks confronts danger and calamity along the hazard-filled journey to California. After a fateful decision that delays the overlanders more than a month, she―along with eighty-one other members of the Donner Party―finds herself stranded at Truckee Lake on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, stuck there for the entirety of a despairing, blizzard-filled winter. Forced to eat shoe leather and blankets to survive, will Ada be able to battle the elements―and her own demons―as she envisions a new life in California?
Researched with impeccable detail and filled with imagery as wide as the western prairie, Answer Creek blends history and hearsay in an unforgettable story of challenging the limits of human endurance and experiencing the triumphant power of love.
About the Author:
Ashley E. Sweeney is the winner of the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for her debut novel, Eliza Waite. A native New Yorker, she is a graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, and resides in the Pacific Northwest and Tucson. Answer Creek is her second novel.
Ms. Sweeney takes on the tale of the ill fated Donner Party with her latest novel focusing on a young woman named Ada Weeks – her story is ficticious but she is placed in the midst of the real life travelers in that wagon train heading West. Ada had been adopted after her parents died in a fire and her new family has decided they want to head to California for a new life. She doesn’t know much about this new place to where they are going but she has heard that grapes will grow there and she is looking forward to eating those grapes.
The mistakes, mismanagement and horrors of the Donner Party are very well known and it’s a marvel that anyone survived that winter in the Sierras. I can tell you that Ms. Sweeney’s descriptions will bring that time very much alive to any reader of this book. From the bitter cold to the constant starvation you will feel like you are there. It’s not pleasant.
I don’t think I’m spoiling any plot points to note that Ada is one of the survivors. After her rescue she goes on to homestead in the wilds of Northern California. The bulk of the book is the long, horrible walk across the West. The section as the group is crossing the dessert in Utah is especially harrowing. But don’t despair. The characters are so strongly developed that you invest in them, even though you know the outcome. Ada is a wonderful character; strong, tall, capable. She is definitely suited to her time and also ahead of it. She doesn’t need a man to survive but that doesn’t mean she won’t welcome one.
I have been very fortunate in my book choices lately and Answer Creek is another really good read. I started it in the morning and was finished it by the time we turned out the lights. My only disappointment was the epilogue. It seemed to come out of nowhere and seemed unfinished or maybe too short? It seemed to drop from nowhere and lacked the striking detail of the rest of the novel. But it was only a very few pages of the whole.
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