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Monday, August 20, 2018

The Hunger By Alma Katsu

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--is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck--the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.
While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions--searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand--evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves "What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased...and very hungry?"

TRIGGER WARNING: Attempted/threat of rape, incest, suicide,  violence and child molestation

I love anything Pioneer Oregon Trail. I love stories about the Donner Party. Every year I drive through the pass at least twice. I've seen the monument and the lake and had that moment looking at 12 feet of snow piled on the side of the road to go "yup, not surprised they ate each other and died."

I was soooo excited to read this book. For the most part, it didn't disappoint. The first half was so good. The struggles, the people, the scenery, the hints of madness and despair. The glimmer of foreshadowing and the overlying fear that the entire wagon train is being hunted by something. Is it evil? Is it a monster? Or is it just bad luck?

The Native American history and mythology aspect was really interesting. Some of the side storylines and characters were colorful and engaging. Like Elitha who hears ghosts and the strong-willed Mormon widow.  There is also a closeted gay character struggling with his own wants and desires and those of his family.

The last half of this book was a letdown. It wasn't nearly as scary as it could have been. The author's foreshadowing ended and instead the predictability was glaringly obvious. The ending was rushed, convenient and the creepy vibe overshadowed by flashbacks that held incest.

Then at the camp, while everyone is cold and starving, there is an adult man molesting preteen and teen girls. The plot was good enough the molestation and incest didn't need to be in this book at all. I have no idea why the author decided to incorporate that into this novel- nothing I've ever read about the Donner part has these elements.

The book blurb talks so much about Tamsen being a witch that is very misleading and she's not even the most important or interesting character in the book and certainly not a witch.

There is one storyline- the most original and interesting about a writer/scientist- that is completely abandoned and has no end, it left me feeling "wait what?" I needed more of this in my life, but nope it just ends with no conclusion.

However, the ending of the whole book was satisfying and tied things up nicely.

 I wanted this to be more of a ghost/monster book and it was actually more of a zombie book. I guess I wanted to love this and only ending up liking it.