Alma Katsu “The Hunger”

“The Hunger” is a book that is quite hard to describe: it is part historical fiction and part horror. This unusual combination makes the reading experience quite enjoyable and thrilling. 

The plot centers around pioneers who in 1846 started their journey to California full of hopes and dreams for a better life. The wagon party, consisting of immigrants and relocators, chose a lesser known path called the Hastings Cutoff which, combined with heavy snowfall and a multitude of hard decisions, became a fateful choice. The Donner Party (you can find various articles online) faced various problems along the way: hunger, lack of proper equipment, extreme weather etc. Being cut off from other people and help, some people resorted to eating the deceased while others were reluctant to do so and perished. In the end only a handful of people survived.

In the book however real life situations are depicted but also a twist almost reminiscent of supernatural fiction has been added. A peculiar disease starts to spread among the party. Witchcraft and Native Americans are blamed but without sound evidence. As more people are getting sick and eventually dying, tension builds up and people resort to taking matters into their own hands. Panic, chaos and indecisiveness quickly ensue.

Due to the fact that the story is narrated by different characters, the reader is able to piece together real events and imagined episodes. The lines that distinguish delusions and reality are quite blurry and are made to be so intentionally. However the emotions and reasons behind every character’s decision are nevertheless relatable. For example, when facing a food shortage how would you decide to ration foods? Whose cattle should be sacrificed?


Bantam Books, 2019

Check from the e-catalogue ESTER

Birgit Kirsipuu
Sääse branch library

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