The Hunger by Alma Katsu

hungerAs a fan of both historical fiction and supernatural horror, when I heard there was a new novel out about the Donner Party, I knew I had to read it. Enter Alma Katsu’s new novel, The Hunger. Set in 1846, this novel is based on the true story of the Donner Party, a doomed group of 100 people heading to California’s fertile valley farmland by way of wagon train. As tragedy after tragedy laid waste to the group, only a handful ever made it.
The Donner wagon train contains two large wealthy families, a beautiful woman rumored to be a witch, a large Mormon family without a patriarch, and some single men, who are all leaving their family farms in Illinois hoping for a better life. As Katsu weaves her story around their lives and voices, the reader gets a good sense of just how hard it was for people on the trail to make it: they must give birth on the trail, tend to the sick, hunt their food, gather their medicine from plants, and deal with the physical act of walking nearly 12 hours per day. Though many of the group start off as strangers to one another, the reader comes to find their lives and sins are intimately connected, revealed through haunting glimpses into all of their shady pasts. As the group members begin to become aware of these connections, their camaraderie is quickly worn away. These divisions spell their doom as their environment grows more barren and a supernatural evil begins to prey on them. (No spoilers!)
This book is not for the faint of heart. It showcases the best, as well as the worst, parts of human nature when faced with a raw survival situation. Despite the difficult subject matter, I found this to be an extremely captivating read, and eager to read more about the Donner party (perhaps my next read will be a non-fiction account of this tragedy, The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party, by Daniel James Brown).  Katsu changed a lot of the real story, but she used many real life events that happened to these real people and seamlessly added a supernatural evil. The result is totally thrilling and cinematic. I eagerly await a film adaptation! (Submitted by Mandi)

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The Girl With No Name: The True Story of A Girl Who Lived With Monkeys

 

The-Girl-with-No-Name1It’s one of those books that you may wish you haven’t started reading (it can be painful to read some parts of this book), but then, all of a sudden- you can’t let go of it. It’s suspensefully captivating.

The book, written by Marina Chapman, is based on a true survival story of Marina, who was kidnapped at the age of 5, and abandoned in the jungles of Colombia. Miraculously, Marina lived on and found a ‘family’ in a troop of monkeys that she befriended. One day, everything changes and Marina returns back to civilization, yet she faces a lot of trials and great misfortunes.

Regardless of all the challenges depicted in the book, there is always optimism and something good invisibly present at all times. The beauty of this narrative is in how strong the main character turns out to be and although Marina is quite agnostic, there is a powerful presence of faith and hope throughout her life’s journey. It’s a story of not giving up, discovering the world, and building oneself from scratch. The novel reads with ease and simplicity; author’s choice of diction creates a vivid picture out of everything. (Submitted by Mariya)

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