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Book review: Self-destruction and the kitchen

June 23, 2009
By Amy Mendenhall
Witness one man’s path of self-destruction in award-winning and best-selling author Monica Ali’s “In The Kitchen.”

Gabriel Lightfoot seems to have everything going for him. He is an executive chef at a hotel restaurant and on his way to becoming part owner of a new one; he has a lovely girlfriend he’s thinking may become his wife one day; and a quiet life.

When one of the kitchen porters is found not only living in the hotel basement, but also dead, this odd discovery leads Gabriel to his own ruin.

The annoying restaurant manager appears to be doing something illegal and the other bosses want Gabriel to report anything suspicious. His staff is becoming more and more belligerent, perhaps tied to the illegal goings-on. Gabriel’s father has discovered he has cancer and will die soon, his grandmother has dementia, and a long-kept secret about his now deceased mother’s mental health has finally come to light.

Meanwhile, Gabriel becomes obsessed with Lena, someone who was living with the dead porter and is using his strange fixation on her to get money, lodging and favors out of him. This completely ruins the healthy relationship he had with his girlfriend, throwing him into an unhealthy one with someone who barely holds back her contempt of him and the world in general.

Even his business deals start to fall apart, as Gabriel must re-examine why it is he does the things he does.

While outside forces help contribute to Gabriel’s destruction, he does plenty of self-sabotage without completely understanding why. It isn’t exactly a light or easy read to watch someone’s life spiral out-of-control, but it is a compelling one and does bring up another side of mental illness. And the scenes within the kitchen were fascinating.

Contact Amy at amendenhall@graffitiwv.com

Fact Box

“In The Kitchen” is published by Scribner. It is $26.99 and is 436-pages long.

 
 

 

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