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Donner Party’s hard time relived in ‘Answer Creek’

The American trait of impatience, that drive to get things done now, caution be damned, is often fatal. It was for Ada Weeks’ step-parents, who in the opening pages of Shelter Bay resident Ashley Sweeney’s new novel, “Answer Creek,” plunge their oxen-driven wagon into the late-May Big Blue River, swollen to twice its normal flow and carrying whole trees. In minutes the wagon is rammed, turned into the current and swept downstream. Humans and oxen are upended and disappear. Gone.

The 19-year-old Ada, along with hundreds of others in the Donner and Russell parties, were only days west of their I...


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