Book review: The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Synopsis

After having travelled west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented – the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter.

Donner’s decision will shape the lives of everyone travelling with him. The searing heat of the desert gives way to biting winds and a bitter cold that freezes the cattle where they stand. Driven to the brink of madness, the ill-fated group struggles to survive and minor disagreements turn into violent confrontations. Then the children begin to disappear. As the survivors turn against each other, a few begin to realise that the threat they face reaches beyond the fury of the natural elements, to something more primal and far more deadly.

Based on the true story of The Donner Party, The Hunger is an eerie, shiver-inducing exploration of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.

Review

I had high hopes for this one but ultimately, it was quite a let-down. I didn’t know much about The Donner Party before picking this one, other than some general knowledge, but I liked the idea of this using their story and adding in a little supernatural horror. Unfortunately, this book left me with too many questions.

There were so many characters in this story, as to be expected since dozens of families were travelling across the States, however, very few of them stood out. I’d always have to pause to work out who each character was, save for the 2 or 3 main characters who were actually given some background.

With lots of characters comes lots of side story/plot lines. By giving so many of these characters their own little stories, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of work to make sure each one is rounded off. I felt like that was missing on numerous occasions. With a sporadically, and often unexplained, changing timeline, so many of the side stories got lost along the way, so lots of the book felt incomplete.

I was excited about the supernatural element added to explain what happened to The Donner Party, and while I liked the concept, as with so much of the rest of the book, I felt like its explanation was only half given.

There were a lot of really dark themes in this novel, but I’d go so far to say that there were too many? It felt as though Katsu wanted to add in as many as possible to give this book some more depth, but it could have gone without. I understand that the author was trying to highlight issues that would have been prevalent at the time of The Donner Party, but I personally thought it felt a little excessive. That being said, it was nice to read in her afterword that she used a sensitivity reader around the subjects she wrote about.

Overall, this one left me wanting more. At a reasonably large page count, this one could have been filled out with so much more relevant stuff, but giving us a solid storyline felt second to just moving the timeline along.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Book Details:

Pages: 496
Edition Published:
2019
Genre: Horror, Historical Fiction
Goodreads Av. Rating: 3.65

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