Book Reviews

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

A novel about the ill-fated Donner Party with a “supernatural twist” added to it? Having read C. F. McGlashan’s History of the Donner Party, a Tragedy of the Sierra,  I knew the story of what happened to the unfortunate group of travelers. I was curious to see how their story would be used in a work of fiction with supernatural elements added it, and hopeful that it would prove to be enjoyable to read, as well.

Katsu’s creative take on the Donner Party’s downfall kept me firmly engaged from start to finish. It was easy for me to get lost in this story, to ‘see’ the vast expanse of open land stretching out in every direction—empty, but for the wagon train moving slowly westward.

It’s been a long time since I last read factual accounts of the Donner Party, and I think that was a definite advantage for me in reading this book. I wasn’t mired down with comparing fact to fiction every step of the way, and that allowed the characters to be more realistic to me, without noticing when fiction replaced fact in the things they said or did.

The supernatural element of the story remained mysterious for a significant portion of the book—appropriately so, in my opinion, because an undefined, menacing presence is much creepier than a known foe could ever be. I was very happy that it took a while to find out what that ‘presence’ truly was, because I enjoyed not knowing.

I haven’t shared any specific details about anything because I don’t think it’s necessary in this case, and it would take away from someone else’s reading experience if I gave examples of things that take place in the story.

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic book. If you’re a reader who enjoys re-imaginings of historical events, I think you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.

(I know a lot of people have classified this as being in horror genre, but I don’t think it really fits that category, despite the supernatural element of the story. I think it best fits as a psychological thriller/historical fiction, and I’ve categorized it as such in the genre area below.)

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons via Edelweiss.

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Author: Alma Katsu 
Title: The Hunger
Genre: Horror, Historical Fiction, Psychological Thriller
Publication Date: March 6, 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Rating: 4 stars

About the Book

The Hunger is a tense and gripping reimagining of one of America’s most fascinating historical moments: the Donner Party with a supernatural twist.

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck–the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.

While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions–searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand–evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves “What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased…and very hungry?”

Effortlessly combining the supernatural and the historical, The Hunger is an eerie, thrilling look at the volatility of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.

About the Author

Author of THE HUNGER, a reimagining of the Donner Party’s tragic journey (Putnam); THE TAKER, THE RECKONING and THE DESCENT (Gallery Books). The Taker was selected by ALA/Booklist as one of the top ten debut novels of 2011.

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