Reviewed by Kate Appleton
Lizzie Prain is an ordinary fifty-something housewife who lives in a cottage in the woods with her dog Rita. She spends her days cooking and avoiding her crazy neighbours and at one time she dallied in running a cake making business. However, no one has seen Lizzie's husband, Jacob, for a few days and that's largely because last Monday, on impulse, Lizzie bashed in the back of his head with a spade and hid his body in the deep freezer in the garage. Although this was apparently not premeditated, Lizzie now acknowledges that it’s her chance to embark on the new life she feels she deserves after 30 years in Jacob's shadow. The problem? She needs to dispose of his body. Her method appeals to all her practical instincts, though it's not for the faint-hearted and there’s a question of whether Lizzie will be able to carry her plan through to the end.
Firstly, one should state that you should never be eating when reading this book – it’s just not a good idea. Even when you’re lulled into a false sense of security, one shocking statement and you’re gagging over your lunch and receiving quizzical looks from your work colleagues. This isn’t for the queasy amongst us readers, you won’t be able to cope. I almost gave up at page 42 with the sentence ‘a slick of yellow white fat under the heel and under the toe’ – it should be noted I can’t stand feet so reading about eating them is beyond repulsive.
The leading lady – or should I say murderer – in this book is Lizzie. Comparable to Hannibal, she certainly has a flair for cooking. Some of the ingredient and recipe ideas sound delicious, if you replaced human for a sirloin that is. Lizzie is strangely likable and also relatable once you’ve become sort of immune to the gory, bone-crushing details you find hidden within the emotional journey of a woman who has been stuck in a suffocating marriage. Young has created a character who embodies the feeling of being alone in a hectic world. No friends, an emotionally distant husband and a family that leaves a lot to be desired. This life (and the darkness that circles it) continues throughout the story and follows Lizzie gorging herself on her husband’s body. Regardless of how much she stuffs herself, however, she still feels empty and unfulfilled.
Supporting characters in the guise of Tom, who works at the garden centre, hints that happiness could be entering Lizzie’s life as he provides a degree of friendship and intimacy. He is a rather socially inept character and not really fleshed out enough to be of too much consequence. There’s also Joanna, who we’re given to believe had an emotional affair with Lizzie’s husband, Jacob, but again the focus is very firmly on Lizzie.
The reasoning for Lizzie’s final breaking point is extremely subtle, which is frustrating. I would have preferred a greater knowledge of her married life and the events leading up to it rather than the excesses of cannibalism. However, overall this is a very interesting read studying the darkest depths of humanity – or if nothing else, it’s an exceptional diet book.