It is 1867 Finland, and the population is suffering from a severe food shortage. As a mother and her children make their way across the frozen landscape looking for a better life (or even a scrap of food), they come across a myriad of people. Some of the people are kind and generous, sharing what little they have (and they all had very little). Some are stingy and suspicious of everyone. But most fall somewhere in between. They are real. They want to help, but have so little for themselves. They want to help, but know that there are so many others who need it as well, and where do you draw the line before you have nothing left? Many are suspicious by nature, but others have been stolen from before and can’t afford to have it happen again. I couldn’t help but wonder, what would I have done?
He thinks of the woman left lying in the snowdrift. How the snow fell over her, in the end, not tenderly tucking her in, but devouring her, like a raging sea dragging a castaway into its depths.
One thing that struck me while reading this book is the strong will to survive. The mother in the story just keeps going and going, because she has no other choice. She follows the light at the end of the tunnel and hopes that it gets her where she wants to go; against all odds, with nothing in her stomach, with two children who have nothing in their stomachs, in the snow, on foot, alone.
This book is bleak, but there is hope; in humanity, and in the spring that is to come.
It does her good to hear another person speak. When she has to exert herself and concentrate on listening, she momentarily forgets the cold and the hunger. No matter what the other person is saying, as long as he is addressing her. Then she remembers that there are other people in the world, and that people still talk to each other. And one day, maybe, there will be talk of things other than bread, the lack of it, or hunger and diseases.
The child’s laughter ploughs a path through grey despair.
Hopeless, yes, but a chance all the same.
Other blogger reviews of White Hunger can be found here.