I picked up The Hunger by Alma Katsu while I was in Portland for the weekend, and I finished it within a few hours of getting home. The book is a fictional account of the Donner party’s entire ill-fated adventure. It makes a pretty solid horror story, as you might imagine.
She clearly did a huge amount of research, and her writing made the setting and characters feel very real. That made it even more interesting that we got some female perspectives, since their lives and interests tend to get glossed over in the history books. The cast of main/focus characters is fairly balanced between men and women, but not racially diverse, in spite of the fact that some non-white folks do get involved at points.
She does a great job of showing just enough about each character to make you curious about them, but not enough that it bogs down the story. Sometimes it was a tiny bit aggravating, since most of the characters clearly had deep dark secrets and their brooding refusal to think about them in complete sentences could feel a bit contrived after a while. Regardless, she did get me pretty invested in a handful of them, in spite of the fact that I knew going in approximately what happened to the Donner party (Historical spoiler: It was unfortunate) so I tried not to get attached. She dragged me in anyway, and it was a weird and interesting ride.
In conclusion, The Hunger was legit creepy and well-written, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who likes horror and history.
Content warnings for the book listed below the photo, so people who want to avoid story spoilers can do so.
Content warnings: Descriptions of violence and some gore. Descriptions of sexual assault. Portrayal of suicidal thoughts and actions. Racist comments against Native Americans. Use/appropriation of Native American myths and beliefs. Personally, I was most bothered by the internalized homophobia of one of the characters. Unlike the other potentially triggering things, that self-hatred wasn’t as clearly framed as a bad thing. Given how hard that would have been to portray, I kinda wish that aspect of the character had just been omitted.