⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Pros: layered equally in typical human experiences and horrific acts of brutality, homage to a lot of issues, well written Cons: heavy and triggering subject matter
TRIGGER WARNING: VIOLENCE, GORE, BODY HORROR, ANIMAL CRUELTY, CHILD LOSS, SEXUAL ASSAULT, PRETTY MUCH ANY TRIGGER THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE, BEWARE.
I just finished this book and immediately opened my laptop to discuss it. I am distraught.
This book was one of my selections for Hannah and I to read, I don't regret it... but she may be pretty upset with me when she finally reads chapter 6, part 2. I am preparing for many, many texts.
The story is a dystopian tale of a virus breaking out amongst the animals/livestock population worldwide and anyone who eats the contaminated meat, dies. So, naturally, the world corrected this by exterminating every animal in existence (aside from birds and bugs) to the best of their abilities and switching everyone over to a cannibal diet. Yes dears, they are eating people. The other other other white meat. YIKES.
There are breeding centers, slaughterhouses, experimental laboratories and tanning centers (and no I do not mean Tan N Go) in order to sustain enough meat to feed the population. People are bred, genetically modified and slaughtered so that other people can eat and survive. The audacity of it all.
There are undertones of government corruption, homage to the horrific meat industry that actually exists, nods to the pandering and fear mongering that goes on in a "civilized society" and so many other things woven into the overall story. The subtle uppercuts to very real, present day issues are what make this book different AKA better than something vapid and pointless like Season to Taste. Well, the uppercuts AND the humanity of it all. Buckle up, because spoilers are coming your way!!!
In part 2, chapter 2, second paragraph, I got my first subtle hint at the layers to come. I read the sentence "His phone rings. He pulls over and answer the call." These 2 sentence say nearly nothing at all, and still so many things. He cares about his safety enough to pull over. He cares enough about the safety of other drivers to pull over. He cares enough about the person calling to not simply send it to voicemail. Where was he going you ask? Oh, to his job at the HUMAN SLAUGHTERHOUSE. The irony was so thick I hollered.
Marcos is relatable in a lot of ways. He is very matter of fact and stoic in his position at the factory, meaning he must be good at his job, even though he has an internal dialogue that tells of his revulsion. He still does what needs to be done because what is the alternative? I feel like this is a big nod to capitalism as a whole. A crushing system that doesn't care about the worker, only what the worker can do for them. The workers are stuck between a rock and a hard place, participating in things they don't support, working for companies they don't believe in, in order to just afford basic needs. It speaks on how big the human experience is and also how minimized it is by the society that we, ourselves, built.
Marcos is struggling with the loss of his infant child and the subsequent breakdown of his marriage. If that weren't enough, he is navigating the mental and physical decline of a parent when they reach old age. His father lives in a nursing home (paid for by Marcos and the job he hates) and has slowly been losing his mind for years. This... this was the most poignant piece of his story for me. I am currently dealing with losing my grandmother to Alzheimer's so I understand the loneliness that comes from sitting and talking to a person you love and that person doesn't know who you are. He also has a sister who is absolutely shallow, full of excuses and doesn't help at all with anything. He is lonely in almost every sense of the word.
I also wanted to spotlight on the weird bird fear that people in the city have. Everyone in the city uses an umbrella anytime they are outside because they fear the virus and the birds that may be carrying the virus. This felt like another jab at the hierarchy of society: city people tend to look down on more rural people as less intelligent, rougher around the edges, etc. and country folk tend to think that the city people are ridiculous and naive to the way the world around them. All of this felt very relevant in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic as well. It's also strange because they seem to fear death so much and yet, there is death all around them at all times. I'm telling you y'all, this book is layered like a freaking genetically modified onion.
When the girl is gifted to Marcos, my Oh-Shit-O-Meter started ringing the freaking alarm! This is the one time I kind of predicted the outcomes and didn't entirely hate that I was right. I figured he would start a relationship of sorts with her. I KNEW he would get her pregnant, I just felt it in my gut (pun intended). I had a fleeting thought towards the end that Cecilia would some how find out that Marcos was hiding Jasmine and the baby and she may steal the baby or sabotage everything somehow, but I wasn't 100% on any of it. Let's just say, I knew where we were headed... straight to hell.
Some of the more brutal aspects of the books came with no warning. I mean, the entire book is a warning to be honest, but every now and then, I'd read a line that just floored me. The fact that the pregnant females had their limbs amputated sent me into space. The removal of the vocal cords had me screaming just because I could. The laboratory in its entirety. All of those things stood out to me as beyond brutal and I would put the book down, have some water and circle back.
The zoo. I loved and hated the zoo. I have spots in my life that are different, shadows of what they once were, that still hold a place in my heart and probably always will. Places that both hurt and soothe me to visit. Places that remind me of the past that was and how far I've come in the meantime. The zoo, like the rest of the book, is layered in a full range of emotions.
The puppy scene in part 2 chapter 6, I was ready to slaughter those kids myself. Which was wild to feel because in just a few, short chapters beyond that, I didn't experience the same stomach turning rage for the Scavengers when it was told that they slaughtered an entire truckload of humans. It is weird how those feelings work, huh?
The niece and nephew...I flipping hated them.
I was very glad that Marcos gave his sister an urn full of dirt and a cigarette butt.
The ending made me feel a lot of different things as well but mainly I closed the book feeling kind of empty. I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach because... he killed Jasmine. Essentially, the woman who made him feel alive again. He killed her because she is just an "animal" at the end of the day. She was a means to an end. All this time, I am reading about Marcos, his disdain for the people in the industry who seem to relish the killing, the hunters who literally stalk and kill humans for sport, the people who keep humans in their homes and eat pieces of them while they're still alive, the woman who is leading the way in human testing, not to mention his pain over the loss of his son, the rift with him and his wife, the ache of losing a parent. Then, with Jasmine, you get to see him care for her, nurture her, clean her, feed her, hold her, be patient with her and I'm reading all of these things feeling more and more like he is a "good" person... and in the final page, all of it is stripped away and he is actually just another cold person, out for himself and his needs.
Also, please enjoy my GoodReads review and follow me there if you'd like! This review is a great summary of all the things I plan to discuss at length below.