After staying away from historical fiction for more than 20 years, I jumped back in with Mary Doria Russell's Doc, moved from that to The Hunger, and I honestly don't know why I ever stopped reading the genre. I like it because when you enter the books, you already have an inklingas to the background story.
In the case of The Hunger I had more than a passing familiarity with the tale of the Donner Party but my knowledge of it didn't prepare me for the journey Alma Katsu had in mind for me.
The real story is interesting enough, but her inclusion of the supernatural, Indian custom and mysticism, and the interaction of the personalities involved (plus flashbacks to their pre-expedition lives) really made this a gripping page-turner. The "horror story" is subdued; for most of the book, the reader isn't quite sure whether it's real, imagined, or simply being exaggerated by the characters. Don't expect any "the monster suddenly appeared" bits, but trust me--you'll know the horror when you see it.
The pace of the novel was consistent, the dialogue was as close to perfect as I could imagine, it was decidedly more character-driven than plot-driven, and I really liked the subtlety of the supernatural aspect. I expected stark horror and didn't get it; what I got was infinitely creepier than anything "in your face."
I've recommended The Hunger for the Bram Stoker Award™ 2018 reading list and have also recommended it to my fellow jurors in the novel category for their consideration.
To anyone who enjoys horror, historical, or psychological thrillers, this book is for you.
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