The Hunger

The Hunger

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-...

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Title:The Hunger
Author:Alma Katsu
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Hunger Reviews

  • Jilly

    I need therapy after this book.

    Holy crap! Someone show me a puppy video, STAT! I may have nightmares tonight.

    Okay, so the biggest thing that will fuck you up is that you know this book is based upon a true story. Yes, it gets strange and has a paranormal thing that comes in, but you also know that these are real people who ended up eating each other in real life. So, you know how absolutely fucked they were to get to that point. They had been traveling together for months. How desperate were the

    I need therapy after this book.

    Holy crap! Someone show me a puppy video, STAT! I may have nightmares tonight.

    Okay, so the biggest thing that will fuck you up is that you know this book is based upon a true story. Yes, it gets strange and has a paranormal thing that comes in, but you also know that these are real people who ended up eating each other in real life. So, you know how absolutely fucked they were to get to that point. They had been traveling together for months. How desperate were they that cannibalism came into play? How do they look at another human being, whom they knew well, and see meat?

    So, going in, you know this story is going to be disturbing, even if it kept strictly to the facts that we know from history. But, nooooooo, that wasn't disturbing enough. Our beloved author took that fucked-up story from history and just went to town on making it so much darker that you will feel your heart blackening as you go. I seriously need to ride a unicorn or eat a rainbow to recover from this shit.

    Fucking cats. I really needed that shit.

    We follow the Donner Party on their journey and get to know several of the characters up close and personal. Most of them are heading west to run away from their problems. Which I wholly approve of. It's really the only way I will do any running. Running from my problems is my cardio (hey, don't knock it til you've tried it. Yeah, Denial!). The thing to remind yourself is that the Donner Party story doesn't end on a happy note. I mean, how do we even know about these people? When you think "Donner Party", you aren't thinking about a fabulous vacation with food and love stories all around. So..... you know it's gonna suck.

    The story is so well-written that you can feel the desperation and isolation that builds as the story goes on. You feel like you are on this giant death-march but you are the only one who knows the outcome. You want to smack them when they make stupid decisions that you know what they will lead to. It's frustrating, depressing, and horrifying.

    But, just a bunch of people who ended up eating each other wasn't enough. No. There are monsters out there. And, the secrets that I mentioned that many of them were running from? There are monsters in their party. Plus, the suffering, desperation, and isolation? There are monsters being created on the road. All together, a hell of a lot of monsters.

    There are tons of triggers in this story, so only read it if you want to be mind-fucked. I am literally nauseous right now as I smell my husband cooking. So, that's the cannibalism. There is also lots of death, obviously, and the sexual abuse of children. Incest and spousal abuse are indicated too.

    Still, if you can stomach it, you will love/hate this book.

  • karen

    when history’s not bad enough, add monsters!

    writers adhering to this philosophy can either turn that historical atrocity frown upside down and play it for laughs by making zombies stagger across the deck of the titanic, OR use it to exculpate humanity by redirecting blame; identifying a villain that is not (or

    , in the case of the undead) bound by human expectations of civilized behavior - 'oh, hitler was

    when history’s not bad enough, add monsters!

    writers adhering to this philosophy can either turn that historical atrocity frown upside down and play it for laughs by making zombies stagger across the deck of the titanic, OR use it to exculpate humanity by redirecting blame; identifying a villain that is not (or

    , in the case of the undead) bound by human expectations of civilized behavior - 'oh, hitler was a vampire, no wonder he so bad!' OR the supernatural can be used to

    the horrifically real - gently drizzling the past’s bad times with a monstery glaze.

    is an example of this third approach. nothing about this story has been lightened by its transition into the monster mash-up genre, and while some of the unneighborly impulses can be attributed to dark inhuman forces, there’s plenty of ordinary shitty behavior that’s as human as it gets.

    as you probably already know, this book is about the donner party, a manifest-destiny sitch gone wrong and one of the main reasons there are so many mcdonald’s studding the lengths of america’s highways. travel-hanger = danger.

    like

    , which is another example of this brand of historical ripped-from-the-headlines horror whose gaps are filled with monsters, both nature and the ancient-unnatural contribute to a tragedy played out in a desolate landscape where it's desperately cold, people eat people, and the snow keeps its secrets.

    also similar to

    is the fact that, for a suspiciously long time, this reads more like historical fiction than horror, to the extent that i thought i had misunderstood something along the path of me-wanting-this-book. don’t get me wrong, i was enjoying it, but it was a slow-paced, well-researched historical whose events were plenty harrowing without any monsters, and once the spooooooky element did slink into the story, it wasn’t to provide additional horrors, it was just offered as an explanation for why the real horrors occurred.

    not that an explanation was needed - i mean, this was a situation already pretty much bound to fail - the proto-reality show about the explosive potential when strangers from different backgrounds, religions, and financial means were thrown together, responsible for themselves and their families, but also dependent upon each other for survival over an unpredictable, under-explored terrain where one misstep could lead to disaster, where a few ounces of cargo could be all that stood between survival and destruction. the dilemma of protecting one’s own vs. the good of the group - whether you could afford to help out a less fortunate family when the unexpected arose, if doing so might cause your own family to suffer, mistrust, travel-fatigue, paranoia, the temptation of other men’s wives and daughters (whether these opportunities were being offered or not), cold and mud and wind and rain and boredom and the smell of oxen and unwashed human and children crying and jesus is it any wonder people started eating their fellow-travelers when provisions ran low miles from anything except snow and … more snow? i feel half-mad just typing all that out and it might not even take anything as extreme as watching someone i love starve to death before i started seeing everyone around me as a walking buffet.

    as a historical, it’s grand - the backstories of those involved are amply fleshed out; fattened for the slaughter & all the better to eat you, my dear. it explores why people decided to take the journey despite the risks - what they were running from, what they hoped to find, what their alternatives to attempting the crossing were, and although i’m not convinced this story needed an extra push into the eerie to explain why it all went so horribly wrong, the mythologized bits are woven pretty tightly into the real facts and it’s well-blended, without seeming shoehorned in or silly, which is no small feat.

    the epilogue was a bit disappointing - after such a long and languid book, it’s kind of a confusing blurry rush of a ta-daaa, but other than that, high marks from me.

  • Tammy

    This is a re-imagining of the tragedy of the Donner Party. There is terror and horror contained within these pages. The characters both real and fictious are fully developed with backstories that enhance the tale. You will want to keep the lights bright when reading this one.

  • Carrie

    The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a fictional novel that is centered around one of histories most famous events when it came to settling the western U.S. This story gives a new imaginative supernatural twist to just what may have happened to the Donner party on their trek across the country.

    The book uses the real characters and events from that time to give the story that realistic feel while also adding in it’s own elements to make a whole new version of events. The story starts off letting readers g

    The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a fictional novel that is centered around one of histories most famous events when it came to settling the western U.S. This story gives a new imaginative supernatural twist to just what may have happened to the Donner party on their trek across the country.

    The book uses the real characters and events from that time to give the story that realistic feel while also adding in it’s own elements to make a whole new version of events. The story starts off letting readers get to know the situation and characters just as they may have been back during their trek to the west.

    The point of view will switch between those in the group introducing multiple key characters in the story. There are also several scenarios given as to why such a large group may have been slowed down which was ultimately the downfall of the Donner party when they became trapped by the snowfall.

    I found the beginning of the book very engaging as the author fleshed out the characters and story and could really picture the wagons heading out along their journey. I will admit though it did have it’s slower moments before the supernatural twist really ramped up towards the end though making it drag here and there for me. In the end though I found the book to a nice balance of reality with the fictional twist that made for fascinating reading.

    I received an advance copy from the publisher via Edelweiss.

    For more reviews please visit

  • Juli

    In April 1846, 90 settlers left Springfield, Ill headed for California. The Donner Party was led by Jacob and George Donner. At first they followed the established route -- The California Trail -- reaching Wyoming without incident. It was at that point that they took the advice of a trail guide, Langsford Hastings, who offered a quicker route. This route proved to be dangerous and nearly impossible to navigate. The Donner Party wasted precious time trying to get through, and arrived at the Sierr

    In April 1846, 90 settlers left Springfield, Ill headed for California. The Donner Party was led by Jacob and George Donner. At first they followed the established route -- The California Trail -- reaching Wyoming without incident. It was at that point that they took the advice of a trail guide, Langsford Hastings, who offered a quicker route. This route proved to be dangerous and nearly impossible to navigate. The Donner Party wasted precious time trying to get through, and arrived at the Sierra Nevada mountains late in the season. While attempting to pass through the mountains, the group was snowed in, running out of food and supplies. Survivors ate the bodies of those who died in order to survive. Only about half of the doomed group lived through winter and arrived in California. This is what history tells us happened to the Donner Party. Alma Katsu paints a much more horrific, terrifying picture of that fated trip. What's worse than cannibalizing dead bodies? The thing that the Indians call Na'it. The Hunger.

    OMG! I loved this book! I am always in favor of creepy horror stories, but when it's a re-telling of a famous (and already creepy in itself) historical event I am even more on board for a good scare. This tale delivered creepiness, outright horror and suspense! As the story unfolds, the horror of the group's situation builds.....not only are they running out of supplies but they are being stalked. Animals disappear. People disappear. Then there's the whispers from the woods at night.....and the strange crazed men that appear, ranting about being hungry. So hungry.

    Awesome storytelling! A nice mix of history with fictional horror. It definitely kept my attention from beginning to end. This is the first book by Alma Katsu that I have read. She also wrote The Taker series. I'm going to read that series because I enjoyed this book so much.

    **I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Putnam via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

  • Debra

    "Maybe it takes one demon to keep the others away." He paused. His eyes glistened with tears now. "Lucifer had been an angel first. I always remember that."

    Is it okay to say that I devoured this book?

    Seriously, I picked this book up after I had read "The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing saga of the Donner party" (It's wonderful and I highly recommend it.) I was worried that I would not like this book as much. I had read some positive reviews of this book and even Stephen King endorsed it,

    "Maybe it takes one demon to keep the others away." He paused. His eyes glistened with tears now. "Lucifer had been an angel first. I always remember that."

    Is it okay to say that I devoured this book?

    Seriously, I picked this book up after I had read "The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing saga of the Donner party" (It's wonderful and I highly recommend it.) I was worried that I would not like this book as much. I had read some positive reviews of this book and even Stephen King endorsed it, so I was very excited to start it. But I was also apprehensive as I often find I am not on the bandwagon with hyped books. Plus, would I hold it up to the high standard of "The Indifferent Stars Above"?

    The first chapter I was worried. It started a little slow for me. But I kept reading and let me tell you this book has some teeth. Okay bad pun. This book drew me in and showed it has legs and can stand on its own merit. This is a re-telling of the Donner party with a supernatural element involved. The Author mixed history with fiction effortlessly. She gave personalities and back stories to the characters and often I wondered about the survivor’s family members would approve. If this book starts slowly for you – keep with it. It sucks you in and there is not going back!

    We all know about the wagon train knows as the Donner party and how they faced tragedy when faced with horrific snow, hunger/starvation, failing mental and physical health. The Author uses some supernatural elements to bring on the creep and bring a little horror to the story. Are they being followed? Is something sinister out there in the dark? Could animals be stalking them? What dangers lies in the dark? What danger lies in the heart of men.

    Making the book even more suspenseful is the belief that one among them is a witch, there are secret relationships, deaths and of course, the hardships of the trail itself. There are a lot of characters in this book, but I had no issues keeping track of them. I also liked that the trail and the landscape itself felt like characters. This book was atmospheric and creepy. There is a feeling of dread throughout this book. Life was hard back then. The trail was hard. Trying to survive on a day to day basis is hard and it makes people hard as well. As the group begins to dwindle in number they begin to wonder, what evil lies in wait for them - is it out there or has it been with them the entire time?

    Hitch up your wagons and load your supplies because you are in for a journey along the eerie and riveting pages of this book!

    See more of my reviews at

  • Sadie Hartmann Mother Horror

    Thank you to Glasstown Ent. for giving the Night Worms a copy of this book to all seven of us for an honest review.

    I'm a native of Northern California. I grew up in a historical mining town. For history lessons in primary school, we read books like, Patty Reed's Doll and played a computer game called Oregon Trail where you and your family had to make your way to California in a covered wagon. I often died before reaching the elusive Sutter's Fort. I had too many supplies in the wagon and my oxen

    Thank you to Glasstown Ent. for giving the Night Worms a copy of this book to all seven of us for an honest review.

    I'm a native of Northern California. I grew up in a historical mining town. For history lessons in primary school, we read books like, Patty Reed's Doll and played a computer game called Oregon Trail where you and your family had to make your way to California in a covered wagon. I often died before reaching the elusive Sutter's Fort. I had too many supplies in the wagon and my oxen would drown while trying to cross the river OR I got dysentery. I typed the message "Pooped to Death" on my gravestone. GAME OVER.

    The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a historical fiction novel based on real events that were *already* horrific in my mind--the stuff the Donner Party endured on their trek through the Sierra Nevada mountains was brutal and tragic, Alma Katsu just turned it up a notch.

    *NO SPOILERS*

    I'm not going to tell you the threat Alma added to the Donner Party events but I'll tell you that I enjoyed it!

    My only complaint would be that Alma never quite went there. I wanted the suspense and tension that she expertly built to ultimately deliver that payload. Don't get me wrong, there is a climax and there are some creepy, gross, scary moments but I could have done with a little more teeth. I wanted some shock value. (maybe because I've read nothing but horror since September?) I do know that I will be reading more from this author. She knows how to spin a good web, I remember telling a friend that this was like a horror soap opera--juicy gossip, tawdry romance, back-biting and scandal all with a backdrop of survival and terror. Lots of good fun! You need it in your horror collection!!

  • Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance

    4.5 Hungy, hungy stars

    The Pioneer wagon train that was DOOMED….and a HUNGER that was lurking within!

    Alma Katsu did an amazing job when combining actual history and blending in fictional elements intrinsically. Researching The Donner/Reed parties that attempted the migration west through uncharted regions of the Sierra Mountains with little choice for survival is a brilliant setting for a fictional novel, and Katsu explored and executed thi

    4.5 Hungy, hungy stars

    The Pioneer wagon train that was DOOMED….and a HUNGER that was lurking within!

    Alma Katsu did an amazing job when combining actual history and blending in fictional elements intrinsically. Researching The Donner/Reed parties that attempted the migration west through uncharted regions of the Sierra Mountains with little choice for survival is a brilliant setting for a fictional novel, and Katsu explored and executed this with perfection.

    The Donner/Reed party, friends, family (including almost half of them children under the age of 18), employees, drivers, cattle, provisions and so forth, left for their journey to California later in the year then other Pioneer wagon trails have. Instead of leaving for their trip in mid-April, they actually did not leave until May 12, 1846.

    Many of the actual persons of the party appear in Katsu’s novel mostly true to what we know about them. George Donner, age 60 at the time, and his wife Tamsen with their children and those from his previous marriage, his younger brother Jacob Donner, age 56, and his family came along. James F. Reed, Irish immigrant, age 45 with his wife Margret, mother and children, made up the other large group traveling. Other families, widows, men and woman joined the party along the way such as Levinah Murphy and her children, the Breen family, Patrick Dolan, Lewis Keseberg and family, the Wolfingers, the Graves family….just to name a few.

    Under great conditions, traveling at 15 miles a day, their journey should have taken them 4-6 months. This is in consideration of rough terrain and inclement weather if they stayed on the Northwestern Route. Once through the mountain pass in Wyoming, by Fort Bridger, the party has the choice now to take a shortcut, the Hastings Cutoff through the Wasatch Mountains in UT and past the southern part of the Great Salt Lake to make it into Nevada. However, provisions are starting to run low and the weather has untimely changed cold early in the season. With a late start to begin with, this is not a great combination.

    Staying very much true to these facts, Katsu starts to develop her characters multi-dimensional along the way. Socio-economic statuses, backgrounds and relationships are explored. Comradery, friendships and foes are established. She sets the mood/tone, when mysterious things start to happen around camp and along the way.

    Katsu’s novel reminds me of

    by Dan Simmons. The unsettling creepiness that ensues from within is unseen, creating demons and monsters lurking all around. Katsu’s craft to create both scenes that describe landscapes most beautifully and intricate, but also evoke a chilling fear and tension of the unseen and unheard is exquisite. Slowly the nights are turning scary, the cold is becoming bitter and among the pioneers or perhaps surrounded by, is a

    that does not stop…..It kills and spreads, tormenting them all.

    As the pioneers start to split in search of better travel routes, the ominous dark that surrounds them continues. Some that venture away from camp don’t return. Some of the families loose loved ones, due to consumption, disease or…..MURDER. A widespread panic is difficult to contain accompanied by the diminished rations and the cold.

    The book commences with most of the pioneers starved or perished, almost like the actual Donner Party. However, no rescue parties are coming for the poor lost souls from

    . The ending is eluding to a most suspicious monster within that strikes and spreads. The reader is given clues in dialogue to interpret

    .

    Relief efforts for the actual survivors of the Donner/Reed party that made it to Truckee Lake were made in three parts with several weeks in between. The treacherous terrain and billowing cold made it an ordeal for any rescue effort. Out of the 80-some people that started the journey, only half survived.

    The whole point of going west was part of the Manifest Destiny. The wish to establish and prosper in California was a dream that many followed. Out of the survivors, Reed was the only one that actually fared well in the California Gold Rush and became prosperous. The Donner children were orphaned. Widowed women remarried and Keseberg grew old and withdrawn.

    ***

    This novel certainly has peaked my interest for more. I was aware of the Donner party and vaguely remember reading about them in the past, but not in detail. Not only do I want to learn more now and get my hands on real sources, but I am also intrigued by Alma Katsu. I believe there have been other writings if not even movies made of this fateful venture, but I am at awe at Katsu’s skills. Her writing holds up with the best.

    I generally love historical fiction almost above all other genres. I read such great reviews about this book that despite my squeamishness towards horror I gave it a try. I honestly have to say, it was not as frightful as I anticipated. I was advised to leave the lights on to read, and to not to be alone etc. But it really wasn’t that bad. The scenes were there, but they weren’t horrific, more of a tension…a flutter in the chest. So, even if you are not a reader of the darker kind of fiction, give this a try. Katsu’s writing is a treat…and she can’t change the fact that cannibalism was involved during the actual journey.

    Enjoy

    Also, thank you to Stephen for the last minute buddy read. I enjoyed your thoughts and our discussions on this novel :)

    More of my reviews here:

  • Carol

    Alma Katsu takes us on a

    journey with a mix of historical-fiction and horror as we follow The Donner Party wagon train from Independence, Missouri west toward California.

    Alma Katsu takes us on a

    journey with a mix of historical-fiction and horror as we follow The Donner Party wagon train from Independence, Missouri west toward California.

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