Book review: Hunger

Hunger by Lan Samantha Chang


Paraphrased from Goodreads

These stories reveal the lives of immigrant families haunted by lost loves: a ghost seduces a young girl into a flooded river; a mother commands a daughter to avenge her father’s death; and a woman speaks from beyond the grave about her tragic marriage to a man whose own disappointments nearly destroy their two daughters. In luminous prose Lan Samantha Chang weaves the forces of war and magic, food and desire, ghosts and family, into haunting tales that signal the arrival of an exciting new writer


Hunger is a novella plus five short stories. I rated the whole thing overall as 4 stars, because I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the stories and the novella. I have mini reviews and ratings for each below.


Hunger (titular novella): 5 stars

I loved this novella. The characters are compelling and complex, the writing is beautiful, it’s super atmospheric (and we know how much I love a good atmosphere), the story is heartbreaking and I’m sure relatable. I really enjoyed this novella and haven’t stopped thinking about it since I read it.


Water Names: 3 stars

This is the shortest story of the collection, at only about four pages, which is why it has a lower rating. I loved it and have no major complaints except that it was a short and somewhat forgettable.


San: 3.5 stars

I thought this short story had less depth than the others, but was still really great. It’s an interesting story and, once again, has compelling characters.


The Unforgetting: 4 stars

This story was so heartbreaking and I really felt for the characters. It was about immigrants who do their best to “forget what they don’t need.” It was really interesting, and I thought the dynamics between the husband and wife were interesting.


Spirit Festival: 3.5 stars

I really enjoyed this story, and I think it would have benefited from being longer. Generally, I don’t mind the length of short stories (since that’s the whole point), but I think this is one that would’ve been better if it was longer. That being said, the characters were great and the story was super interesting.


Pipa’s Story: 3 stars

I thought this one was slightly out of place in this collection, which is why it has a lower rating. It was still really good, I loved the characters, and I loved the story, it just didn’t fit with the others.


Overall, this is a well-written collection with amazing characters that I think reflects the experience of different immigrants (keep in mind that I myself am not an immigrant, so that could be a misguided opinion). I highly recommend it, if you can get your hands on a copy.

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