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A fingerlicking good story

Pork Chops

Amarylis De Gryse

Marieke is the youngest of four sisters in a family with an absentee father and an unstable mother. She works in a care home, where she’s happiest in the kitchen, lovingly preparing pigs’ cheeks with onions and gravy, oven dishes with a crispy cheese crust, vol-au-vents and spaghetti sauce. A sharp contrast with the bland, watery meals of sausage and apple sauce that are the usual fare for the old people in the home.

Marieke is kind and considerate towards everyone: the care home residents, her mother, her boyfriend Blok – who she’s loved since childhood – and his interfering mother. But then her boyfriend heartlessly forces her to go on a diet. They grow ever further apart, and when Blok deludes himself into thinking that Marieke’s having an affair, she doesn’t contradict him. She’s forced out of their home during a scorching summer, just when her summer clothes are stuck at the laundrette. While homeless, she finds consolation in comfort food and memories of happier times.

A novel full of wild energy, which is immediately transmitted to the reader
NDR Kultur

Things aren’t going too well at work, either. The home’s relocation from old to new, more modern premises runs into problems, and Marieke finds herself left behind with the residents in the sweltering heat. She lavishes the affection she herself never gets on the old people in her care. Dressed in jeans that are much too hot, Marieke ends up going into battle about the appalling treatment of the home’s residents and finds an unexpected ally: the husband of her favourite resident.

'Pork Chops' is a bittersweet story in which childhood memories intermingle with scenes of profound sadness and loneliness. It’s a tragicomic tale about sticking up for yourself and about caring – but above all it’s an ode to comfort food.

Written with engagingly dry humour, this is a captivating and touching debut
Written in a melancholy, funny way, full of subtle hints and gorgeous metaphors
The Low Countries