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BOOK REVIEW: 'Monster's Chef' by Jervey Tervalon

Terri Schlichenmeyer | 8/13/2014, 3 p.m.
Even though there's some mild hair-raising here, this book isn't exactly a thriller and it's not a mystery. Author Jervey ...

c.2014, Amistad

$24.99/$31 Canada

214 pages

It’s snack time. What do you crave?

Maybe something salty-crunchy will get you through the day, perhaps saved over from lunch. Or something sweet from the office breakroom? Then again, a bag full of both might fulfill your wants and fill your stomach.

But having it all? In “Monster’s Chef” by Jervey Tervalon, that might be like biting off more than you can chew…

Gibson needed a job.

He needed to work for many reasons: to forget what he lost, to forget his wife, to stay clean. He needed a job because his parole officer said he did, so when the counselor at the halfway house hooked him up for an interview with the world’s biggest performer, it seemed like a small lifeline.

She warned him that Monster (the name the guy preferred) was weird.

“Weird” didn’t even touch what this guy was, though.

First off, he lived in a compound that included an amusement park, all surrounded by a moat. Employees were forced to abide by an odd confidentially clause, nobody was to approach Monster, nobody was allowed to talk to him, his family, or other employees. Monster ate what he called Living Food, glided instead of walked, and sometimes acted like a child. He giggled – and he actually believed that he was once a black dude, but “changed” into a white one.

Oh, yeah, Monster was a freak. A mega-talented, insanely rich freak who needed a personal chef. And Gibson needed a job.

It was the most boring job he’d ever had.

Entire weeks went by when he wasn’t needed and since there was no point in making a menu for a “ghost,” Gibson started breaking rules. He knew he wasn’t allowed to talk to the gardener, or to discuss Monster’s weirdness – but he did. He knew he wasn’t permitted to approach Monster’s wife, or to befriend her. He also knew it wasn’t OK to kiss the Boss’s wife but, oddly, Monster somehow knew about that and he didn’t seem angry. It was all so surreal, made even worse by the drugs that Monster was obviously using on everyone at his lair.

Gibson knew he needed to leave – but could he?

Just like its antagonist, “Monster’s Chef” is weird.

Even though there’s some mild hair-raising here, this book isn’t exactly a thriller and it’s not a mystery. Author Jervey Tervalon’s novel actually seems jumbled, in fact, although it’s strangely addictive.

But here’s the surprise: though there’s a disclaimer on the copyright page, “Monster’s Chef” contains strong hints of a certain deceased mega-star who owned a castle-like compound with an amusement park and liked to have sleepovers with children. Even the ending, once I thought about it, had whiffs of this star’s work.

And maybe that’s what kept me reading: the audacious hints in this “entirely coincidental” work were a good distraction from the mishmash of story and I liked that, although I don’t think this book is for everybody. Definitely, though, if you’re a lover of weird tales, “Monster’s Chef” is one you’ll eat up.