*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Hunger
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: J. P. Puntam’s Sons
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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?”
This book is really out of the realm of what I usually read. It’s a historical fiction meets supernatural thriller–a retelling of the story of the Donner party who made the trek across the United States in the 1840s with their hopeful sights set on California as a new land of prosperity. Historically speaking, along the way the party met a series of unfortunate mishaps and ended up stranded through the winter months. A large number of the group died and the remaining members survived by eating their dead. Katsu’s story takes this tragic tale and re-imagines it with a sinister and supernatural twist.
I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. I really enjoyed the story and it was very well written. Katsu is an imaginative and talented writer and she definitely had me spooked on more than one occasion. I enjoyed that the story was told from the perspectives of multiple characters, giving the reader various voices and a variety of outlooks on the tale as it unfolded. It’s certainly a good ghost story. Characters like George Donner’s wife, Tamsen, and his daughter, Elitha, were incredible intriguing and I would have really loved this book to be told in just their two perspectives. Tamsen is feared for being a witch and Elitha, although she hasn’t told anyone, can hear the voices of the dead. The book blends the characterization with the supernatural plot very well.
What I didn’t love about this story is that I felt that there was so much going on. I know that added plot lines can add to the complexity of the story, but sometimes I did feel like The Hunger did get off track a bit. There’s a lot to take away from the main plot. I felt this to be a bit superfluous and it felt more like a plot device to add to the overall sinister nature of the book. The reader already knows there’s something creepy and sub-human going on that we’re slowly finding out, but adding in more sinister human behaviours–at least to the extent that this book did–was distracting. I do realize it’s meant to lead the reader to believe that the danger could be internal or external to the group, and it’s used to make you question if it’s human or not. I think that this element could have been refined a bit. I don’t want to give away too much but perhaps you’ll see what I mean when you read it.
Anyways, I hope you’ll give it a try. Overall it was an entertaining read and I would recommend this one for sure.