Recently, I read a review of a book that stated: “As insightful as it is absurd […] there is nothing derivative about this book, which is original in every sense…” While I agree with that assessment of the book in question (I had read and reviewed it as well) I felt that those words were just as applicable to Grass-Fed, a brilliant novella written by Aaron Schneider, who is an Assistant Professor at Western University (London, Ontario), and founding editor at The /tƐmz/ Review, amongst other accomplishments. Aaron personally sent me a copy of Grass-Fed in return for an honest and fair review.
The setting for Grass-Fed is the exclusive BlackRock Farm, Hunting Lodge and Resort in Northern Ontario, where Alexander Williams, the world-famous writer and “the David Attenborough of food” hosts a week-long retreat for seven people (three couples and a single male) the purpose of which Alexander states in his introductory speech to the group:
“We are gathered here to share a truly unique experience… something extraordinary… a week of discovery and growth during which we will learn about our food and about ourselves. You are stepping outside your comfort zones. You are testing your limits. Today, we are here to discover this essential truth. To learn what it is to be close to our food.”
The group includes an ex-hockey player, businessmen, academics and a talk show host and their spouses. There are four days, Day Five being departure day. The book is divided into Days and Nights; the days are well choreographed by Alexander and the resort’s head chef, Matthew. However, it is the nights are when they are alone in their rooms, either conversing with one another or in silent meditation of the day’s events that are most revealing. None of the couples are friends (nor do they become friends), and they do little in the course of conversation aside from generalities. Perhaps they know what Day Four may bring. Day Four is the climax of the retreat, and I’m not going to give anything away. The real genius of Mr. Schneider’s writing is his deliberate and meticulous character development and the build-up to Day Four’s climactic “life experience.”
The beauty of the novella format allows for extended experimentation with phrasings and styles than the short story, yet restrains the writer to a certain number of pages, so conciseness is key. If you’re looking for something different to read, and a story that challenges and critiques society, privilege and pretentiousness, then get Grass-Fed.
Grass-Fed by Aaron Schneider
*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2TgANRA Thanks!