Book Review — The Hunger

Title:  The Hunger
Author:  Alma Katsu
Genre:  Horror, historical
Pages:  Hardback 373
ISBN:  978-0-7352-1251-0
Opening Lines:  "Everyone agreed that it had been a bad winter, one of the worst in recollection.  Bad enough for some of the Indian tribes, Paiute and Miwok, down from the mountain."

Rating


"Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere. That is the only way to explain the misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party.

"Depleted rations, butter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the drink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy . . . or the feeling that someone—or something—is stalking them. Whether it's a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through the uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history.

"As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains . . . and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along."

~ Jacket copy


If you've been reading my blog on and off in the last several years, you know that I always try to read horror novels all throughout the month of October.  While my husband and I were back in Laramie at the end of September, I decided to do a little research on the latest and greatest horror novels of 2018.  This book popped up on every. single. list!  Since I was a teenager, the Donner Party has always been rather fascinating.  When you combine a true story of cannibalism with a supernatural twist, I'm in!


Basically, it's the Donner Party!  If you don't know the story, I highly suggest doing a little research.  In my opinion, it has become pseudo American folklore and lives in infamy akin to Roanoke.  This novels takes that story and adds disappearing children, hushes whispers from Native Americans, and rumors of creatures stalking the party.



The last few years, it has been exceedingly hard to fully dig into a novel.  Something about this book was able to pull me in and keep me reading.  Katsu did an amazing job building a growing sense of dread.  At points, I found myself turning on every light in the house and jumping when my kitten sneezed.  However, I couldn't point to one thing or one issue that was necessarily creepy.

The Hunger starts in April 1847 with a rescue mission to find survivors of the failed wagon train.  After some gruesome discoveries, the author pulls the readers back to June 1846 near the start of the Donner Party's ill-fated journey.  The reader follows Tamsen Donner, Charles Stanton, Mary Graves, Elitha Donna, Edwin Bryant, and a few other characters.  Each chapter is written from a different character's perspective and follows the party until January 1847.

While the story had an interesting premise, I felt as though it fell short.  Katsu was able to keep me reading and engaged in the novel; however, she spent the majority of the book building to a climax that fizzled out at the end.  At many points during the novel, I found myself wondering whether she was going to use the wendigo.  The Native Americans are a big deal at the beginning of the novel; therefore, it would stand to reason that she would pull on their ancient belief.  Unfortunately, that was a loose end.  When the audience finally does get a glimpse into the possible connection between the strange happenings and the cannibalism, Katsu never explains it.

In addition, I felt the pacing was rather slow.  Katsu spends an inordinate amount of time introducing the readers to these historical people and giving us access into their personal thoughts/lives.  However, it doesn't truly amount to anything.  Why did we—the readers—have to spend so much time invested in Charles Stanton?  The same goes for Mary Graves.  The slow pace makes it even more frustrating when the ending is extremely anti-climactic.

Please do not get me wrong!  This was was enjoyable and made me jump in noises in a new house.  Unfortunately, once I finished it, I felt a dissatisfied.  If you love history, cannibalism, and horror, The Hunger is worth a shot.

Much love, Sinn

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"If you’re a freak like me, Wave your flag! If you’re a freak like me, Get off your ass! It’s our time now, To let it all hang out!" I am a recovering English major, closet bibliophile, breve addicted, zombie lover with a rockabilly and heavy metal fetish.