Through his celebrated Western biographies, Michael Wallis has become renowned for his portraits of the real, largely unforgotten legends of Americana. Now, with Best Land Under Heaven, Wallis continues his life’s work of separating fiction from fact, finally demythologizing the often-told saga of how an unlikely band of nearly ninety pioneers – stratified in age, wealth, education, and ethnicity – headed west in pursuit of the American Dream. That dream tragically morphed into a collective nightmare after a series of bad decisions and a once-in-a-generation winter storm left the now infamous Donner party snowbound in the Sierra Nevada. Unconvinced by previous accounts of how the group ended up in peril, Wallis has spent years retracing its ill-fated journey, uncovering hundreds of new documents that illuminate how a combination of greed, backbiting, and recklessness led to one of America’s most calamitous and sensationalized catastrophes. What results is a riveting account of the darkest side of Manifest Destiny.