Penguin Publishing Group | March 2018 | 384 pgs
Source: Purchased

My blogger friend, Lark and I, decided to kick off the new year by reading Alma Katsu's The Hunger together and boy, what a good book it is! If you are familiar with the true event of the series of misfortunes and tragedy that struck the wagon train known as the Donner Party set in 1846-7, this book will interest you as it is a retelling of that historic event with a horror twist. The author mentioned that the names, locations, and dates have remained but much else has been changed to fit the story. I won't go into details of the true event on this review but if you're interested to read more, please click here

During that period, a group of ninety people, consisted of men, women and young children as well, travelled from Springfield to California via route West; each family harboured a different dream in the hope of finding a better life. Amid the travel, the disappearance and the death of a small boy rippled their once peaceful atmosphere. To make matters worse, talks about an Indian tribe that is rumoured to perform human sacrifice to appease the devil further disturb the party. Tamsen Donner, the wife of George Donner, who took up the leadership role of the wagon party, wasn't spare either as some thought of her as a witch; both in concocting herbs and/or bewitching men. Whether it was her curse, their later ill-advised choice of an untested route through uncharted terrain or just plain bad luck, they soon found themselves stuck in dire and dangerous situations where aside from their fear and hunger, human nature under desperate circumstances is equally potent in setting one against another and before long they would all head into a disastrous route of no return. 

Alma Katsu is a great storyteller. Taken the past event as the base of this story and through research and some re-imagination, she transformed the already harrowing experience of the original Donner Party into something more sinister with a horror element - something vague which question the reader what kind of horror that plagued them and pushed them to the brink of madness. Ms. Katsu's characters are fleshed out and she captured that foreboding and atmospheric feeling very well; meanwhile adding some backstory of a few characters so as to incorporate their emotions and how they will come to affect their outlook and judgement during their perilous journey. While many of the characters get more and more unlikable as the story progresses (a self-defense act I suppose), I do like one or two characters due to their characteristics. Overall it was a great read and I'd recommend this to anyone. 

Below are some questions from Lark and my answers surrounding this story. I hope you'll visit Lark's blog for her review and the Q&A after reading this post. (Thank you, Lark, for this buddy read again!) 

1. What if anything did you know about the Donner Party before you started reading this book?
I didn't know about the Donner Party until I came across this book and understand from other reviews that this was actually based on a true story. I was already fascinated by the blurb then and it was a great thing when Lark and I decided to read it for our next buddy read. Before starting the book, I Googled for more information regarding this unfortunate party and how their journey came about up till how it all ended up in tragedy. It was both so sad and horrifying. 

2. If you had to team up with 3 characters from this book in order to survive, who would you choose and why?
Without a doubt, I'd team up up with Charles Stanton, Mary Graves and Elitha Donner. I choose Charles because he was the most practical and level-headed among all the men there; and he chose to use words first than fists when there are any disagreements and confrontations. As for Mary and Elitha, I chose them because both of them are sensible and are not afraid to voice their thoughts, in particularly Mary. I've to say she's my favourite character among all.

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12 Responses
  1. Lark Says:

    Awesome review of this book, Melody! It was some read, wasn't it? That combination of history and horror was such a great combination. Can't wait for our next buddy read! :D

  2. As I mentioned to Lark, I know the Donner Party history quite well, having lived in Northern California for so many years, not to mention having spent many summers camping in the Donner Summit as a child. Such a beautiful place! It's history is dark though, isn't it? This sounds terrifying! I am glad you and Lark enjoyed it.

  3. Melody Says:

    Lark - Yes, I like the combination of history and horror of this story. The latter definitely adds a new perspective to the original story, isn't it? Looking forward to our next buddy read, too! :)

  4. Melody Says:

    Wendy - It's an experience living in the Donner Summit and I'm sure you'd a wonderful time since you mentioned it's a beautiful place. The history is dark, no doubt, but it's all in the past. I hope you'll read this book one day.

  5. jenclair Says:

    I've read about the Donner Party many times, only once in fiction. Hard to imagine the circumstances of that disastrous expedition! Glad you enjoyed it, Melody!

  6. Melody Says:

    Jenclair - Yes, I could imagine the horror of it. It's all so sad.

  7. Kay Says:

    I love these 'buddy' reads that you and Lark participate in. Such fun for those of use who read your blogs. I had known about the Donner Party, but I think that using it as a base and then adding the horror factor was quite intriguing. I'm going to see if my library has it. Bet they do. Nice work, Melody!

  8. Iliana Says:

    I remember studying about the Donner party when I was in school so to be honest I wasn't that interested in this book but after reading yours and Lark's review & Q&A, I'm really curious now! Sounds like it was a great read.

  9. Melody Says:

    Kay - I always enjoy my buddy reads with Lark. The exchanging of views are fun, too. :) I hope your library has a copy and I'll be curious of your thoughts if you do read it, Kay.

  10. Melody Says:

    Iliana - It was a great read, though it was sad and dark.

  11. The Bookworm Says:

    How fun to read a book together. This one sounds interesting. I watched a documentary about the Donner Party and it was so sad and scary too.
    Glad you enjoyed this one.

  12. Melody Says:

    Naida - I love buddy reads. :) This book was intriguing in so many ways, although it was scary, too. (Not ghost-story scary but the evil in humans). The documentary sounds interesting though I think it'd be too hard to watch.

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