Exploring motherhood and care-giving in the midst of a terrifying algae-borne disease, Fernanda Trías’ latest book Pink Slime is an atmospheric and unforgettable read.
The story follows an unnamed woman, living on the coast close to the danger the algae and disease presents. As the area gradually worsens and the people abandon the town, she visits the last of those close to her – her mother, estranged and often uncaring, her husband, divorced and bedridden with a rare form of the disease, and Mauro, a young boy she is paid to care for. As her world falls down around her, she reflects on her past and all of those she has left behind, even as those still with her leave one by one.
Pink Slime is a slow story. Summarising it on paper, it seems like long stretches pass in which very little happens at all. And yet, every moment is compelling under the beautiful prose of Fernanda Trías. It’s the atmosphere and poetic feel that makes this book shine.
This is a story about relationships. About motherhood both biological and found – about the main character’s mother and mother-like caretaker, and the way it parallels her relationship with the little boy Mauro. About her relationship with her ex husband, and with the little boy thrust into her care. Each of these relationships are difficult and tragic.
Despite a focus on relationships, the book is soaked in an atmosphere of loneliness and isolation. The main character may spend much of the story in the company of one person or another, but with each fraught relationship it’s clear she finds no true comfort in them. She’s the main character of the book, the person we follow all the way through the story, and yet even at the end she still feels a little unfamiliar. She’s never even named or identified beyond small details.
Pink Slime is about a lot more than that as well. It’s themes are myriad despite seeming such a small book. Loneliness, isolation, motherhood, care-giving. The ways that tragedy and disaster hit the poorest hardest, how they’re disposed of, discarded and forgotten as needed. The struggle to leave the place you call home, even as it changes and becomes unrecognisable. The ways we long, hunger, for something that we struggle to define and which can never truly satisfy us.
Pink Slime is a strange book. It’s slow and ponderous, poetic and sad. It’s not for everyone, and I’m not sure it was truly ‘for’ me either. But it’s certainly original, and unlike much I’ve ever read before. If that appeals to you, or if you’re interested in a poetic book, or even if you’re looking for a story that will stay with you long after you put it down, then I recommend this book.