Tender is the Flesh: Book Review

This week has been a bit nutty. I’m fostering a cat right now! Her name is Cena and she is a terror – sorry, I mean a tabby. She has learned to threaten me with her paw when she wants something from me, like eggs from my fried rice. And I get the murder beans if I don’t give it to her fast enough. She doesn’t listen to reason.

To help her adjust and become a bit more friendly and less murder beans dictator, I’m taking in two more fosters that are friendlier. Hopefully, this will help teach Cena to embrace her new human roommate situation.

My internet bombed out yesterday for the entire day, which left me unable to post a review but also motivated me to write a lot with less distractions!

So with that, on to the review!

The Author

Agustina Bazterrica is an award-winning Argentinian author. She has won the First Prize from the Municipality of the City of Buenos Aires, First Prize in the 37th ‘Edmundo Valadés’ Latin American Story Contest, and the 2017 Clarin Prize. Besides Tender is the Flesh, she has also written Matar a la niña (Kill the Girl) and story collection, Antes del encuentro feroz (Before the Fierce Encounter). Besides writing, Agustina is a cultural organizer and curator, as well as coordinating reading workshops.

The Book

His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing. Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.

Tender is the Flesh Amazon landing page

Tender is the Flesh (translated to English by Sarah Moses) is not for the faint of heart. By reading it, you fall into a world of cannibalism, human safaris, animal cruelty, and rape. So be warned, fair reader. The world has experienced a “Transition” after most of the animal population was wiped out by a deadly virus. People are told that they will suffer health issues if they don’t eat meat regularly so, to fill that void, the government creates the “special meat” industry. Marco is a man who works in the “special meat” business, fulfilling orders to special clients, laboratories, and tanneries. When a pleased colleague sends him a gift, it sends him into a spiral of grief and confusion.

The Review

Did I like this book? That’s a hard question to answer. Agustina weaves as disturbing dystopia, populated by selfish, immoral people. It’s a haunting tale. I didn’t really like the journey, but that’s because it was a well written, it was horrifying, it was everything I hope the world will never become and yet it seem so terribly possible.

The ending (which I won’t spoil) is one of the creepiest endings I’ve ever read. It still pops up into my head, weeks later, like a brain ghoul or something. Again, I will warn you, lovely reader, don’t start Tender is the Flesh if you’re not a fan of body horror and heartbreaking dystopias. I’m pretty jaded, but this book shook me up.

So, did I like this book? I liked it for how uncomfortable it made me, how well-written it was, and its horror. But I also didn’t like how uncomfortable it made me too. It hooked me like a “special meat” product and whisked me away into a dark world and I still feel like I’m processing it — or am I the one being processed?

9/10

x PLM

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