PositiveThe New York TimesSlade did not have to resort to reasonable inference and guesswork about the vessel’s final moments. She was able to quote the actual words spoken on the bridge. The mundane remarks about the fetching of coffee, the complaints about the company, the jokes, the giving and taking of routine orders and the wistful asides about home, children and spouses left behind — these details paint a poignant and tragic picture of ordinary people heading to their deaths ... The book tells of the heroic search-and-rescue operations, the hunt for the black box, the investigations and hearings and the nature of hurricanes. It chronicles the despicable reactions of Tote and its upper management to the tragedy. The pusillanimous, corporate-speak testimony of several corporate executives is quoted at length — perhaps at too great a length. But one can’t help reading it, page after page, in disbelief and disgust.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewWallis has delved into an extraordinary mass of original material, documents, diaries, accounts and letters, as well as new sources apparently not available to previous authors, and produced not only a definitive account of the Donner tragedy, but also a book so gripping it can scarcely be put down ... With a keen eye for the particulars, Wallis has done a superb job sifting through lurid tabloid moralizing and unreliable accounts to explore the complex truths of human beings pushed to the absolute limits of existence.