The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a great historical fiction of the Donner Party. Going in I didn’t know much about the Donner Party except that they had reverted to cannibalism after being stranded during a snowstorm. Without knowing much background on the story I can’t say for sure how close to the true story this tale tracks. Obviously some deviation is expected since this is a historical fiction.
I really enjoyed how the story was told through the points of view of different characters. It is always nice to see the events of a story through different eyes. It was clear that these people had no realistic idea of what this trip was really going to be like. The promise of bigger better things is always enticing. Our story starts out innocently enough. A wagon train made up of normal families on a trip to start new lives, excited by the prospects of what lay ahead. Early on in the trip a young boy goes missing and is later found dead. Everyone assumes he was attacked by animals despite the state his body was found in.
As the trip progresses things get harder and the weather turns cold as the wagon train nears the mountains. Here is where our story really takes off. The train splits and some folks go one route on their way to Oregon while the rest take a rarely used mountain path to continue on to California. Unfortunately the guide that was supposed to be waiting to lead them through the pass has already left with another group. A couple of men ride ahead along the route to find the guide. They don’t find what they expect. This pass is wild and not a straight and easy route. When they find the group the guide is with, they discover there have been hardships. People are on edge, women and children are hiding in the wagons afraid to come out. The guide himself is holed up in a wagon. He warns the men away, tells them of evil in the woods. Despite warnings from not only the guide but also Native American men who live in the area, George Donner who is leading the group insists that they take this route.
It’s not long after the start of their journey that things take a turn for the worse. The weather turns colder. People sicken, some die. Food starts to run low and spirits turn bad. Things only get worse as the trip continues. People may have been ok if only they weren’t being hunted by the evil lurking in the woods. Evil that had the ability to infect others and that liked the taste of human flesh. In the end some of our characters make it out alive. But the journey is arduous and fraught with danger.
This story is very well written and holds your attention from the beginning. We will never truly know what happened in those mountains or if anything other than simple starvation led them to eat each other to stay alive. I enjoyed Alma’s take on the tale. I look forward to exploring more of her work.
I give The Hunger 4 stars and would pair it with Blood on the Rocks
Buy the book http://amzn.to/2hSDtVl