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Snowbound Hardcover – March 2, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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The Secret Healer
In the fourteenth century, opportunities for women are limited. But spirited young Madlen can't resist her gift for healing, even if it puts her life in danger. Learn More
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Six-time Spur Award–winner Wheeler takes on the charismatic, unpredictable, and enigmatic 19th-century explorer John Frémont in this rich if overstuffed survival tale. The story begins in 1847 with Frémont losing a court-martial for mutiny and disobedience, but Frémont isn't down for long: his senator father-in-law gets Frémont set up to conduct a survey for a proposed railroad line connecting St. Louis and San Francisco. A revolving cast of narrators—Frémont, other historical figures, and fictional characters—chronicle the expedition into the Colorado mountains as winter begins, and it becomes apparent that they are falling behind schedule and are ever closer to starvation or freezing to death. Wheeler skillfully depicts the extreme conditions (King was gaunt and drawn, the flesh gone from his face, his eyes sunk in pits.... Williams had crawled inside himself. There were great icicles hanging from his beard), though the attentions of many narrators can tend toward the redundant and slow down what is otherwise a dramatic and colorful epic that should hook even those who already know how everything turns out. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

John Charles Fremont (1813–90), the mathematics teacher, military man, presidential candidate, and explorer, lived a storied life. In this novel, Wheeler focuses on Fremont’s fourth expedition to forge a railway route along the thirty-eighth parallel, connecting St. Louis with San Francisco. Wheeler, who notes that accounts of Fremont’s life vary greatly, portrays the explorer as a deeply contradictory man: courageous but self-centered; remote but highly respected; reckless but methodical. Fremont’s fourth expedition was his most disastrous (several members of his team died), and Wheeler’s decision to concentrate on it, rather than an episode from Fremont’s military or political career, makes perfect sense: it allows the author to show us the man in all his mercurial glory, the famed explorer who will risk everything, including his own life, to break new ground. Good reading both for western-genre fans and readers of historical fiction. --David Pitt
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765316625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765316622
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,736,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Richard S. Wheeler's book, SNOWBOUND, set in 1848-49. is the story of John C. Fremont's ill-fated Fourth Expedition to the western territories of America. Using the voices of members of his company of travelers, Wheeler presents the journey of some 100 men and 150 mules and half a dozen horses to trace the expedition's footsteps from Washington City to California allegedly to conduct scientific research, to prepare topographical maps, and to choose a route for a railroad to cross the continent, in particular the western mountains.
Wheeler has chosen a cross section of company members to report the progress of the journey. Their various points of view offer a great vehicle to inform the reader of an exploration which for its length and duration could otherwise become tedious reading. In addition, Fremont, often known as "Pathfinder" (for his self-flattering reports of previous explorations), is not a simple character to define.
A man proven to be devious, wholly self-interested and defiant of authority, Fremont had been court martialed and ejected from the military, but continues to use his former title. In the meantime, when "Colonel" Fremont was unable to ingratiate himself into the family of powerful Missouri Senator Benton, he eloped with his daughter, Jessie. The expedition group that leaves from Missouri is composed of Fremont's former exploring company and new men who join the company for the half-hearted "promise" of pay upon return. While such arrangements may seem strange to us today, it was not unusual for footloose men of the first half of the nineteenth century to join such loosely gathered parties under such conditions if only to "see the elephant," an adventurous lark.
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Format: Hardcover
Selected for this year's Spur Award for Short Novel, this is an account of John Charles Frémont's fourth expedition into the West, 1848-49. As portrayed by Wheeler, the man was an adventurer who seems to have required a devoted audience and a national stage on which to play out his adventures. His attempt to discover a route for a transcontinental railroad was little more than a stunt. He not only set out across the West's most forbidding mountain ranges, but he did it in the winter. Told repeatedly that such a trip was foolhardy, he simply refused to listen.

He seems to have been driven by a triumphant vision of himself arriving in California, having defied everyone's belief that it couldn't be done. Nothing short of that would satisfy him. By the middle of Wheeler's novel, that vision is beyond achieving. The entire expedition of 33 men is snowbound in the highest elevations of southern Colorado.

Blaming everyone but himself for failure to even reach the Continental Divide, Frémont sends for help. There begins the long disaster of retreat from the mountains as men perish one by one from cold and starvation. The book's achievement is its portrayal of the physical suffering of the men themselves and the growing psychic toll of their growing dread. When death finally comes to some, after the last shoe leather has been boiled, it is with a numbing surrender to exhaustion, cold, and despair. The novel is a harrowing testament to folly. Well deserving of this and any other awards.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an amazing story. I learned SO much about the TIMES AND CUSTOMS. I still just can't believe he made this journey in the dead of winter....didn't seem very smart. I am very glad to have read this story but it is tough to believe all they went through.
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Format: Hardcover
I love this novel! It's an honest approach to the story of John C. Frenont's disastrous fourth expedition. I loved this novel because it courageously confronts the realities of the Fremont "Pathfinder" mythology to portray him as driven, ambitious, and flawed. In other words, deeply human. Wheeler is an author of inspiring range, who succeeds at both the Barnaby Skye westerns and the demanding honesty of good historical fiction. Besides, it is beautifully written, as only Wheeler can write. This novel is heartrending, courageous, and moving. In my view, it's a great novel.
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Format: Kindle Edition
If one could get out of one's petty little brain that is drawing conclusions from a fictional account of one unfortunate period of John Charles Fremont's FIVE Expeditions into an unmapped Western frontier, one might be tempted to read Ferol Egan's "Fremont:....", an in depth account of Fremont's life, including, along with his many accomplishments, the tragic loss of two children, as well as the deaths of his nearest and dearest friends. One might expand one's view and not be so judgemental.
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