Killing It: An Education is as unflinching as one might imagine a book with that title to be, but it’s also humanizing and thoughtful—with the butchery comes a journey of self-realization applicable far beyond the realm of animals or food.
What Davis really takes on in Killing It is the tension, as she puts it, between 'life, death and dinner.' She wants readers to contend more immediately with the act of killing and eating an animal ... For anyone who has kept up with the food world during the last 25 years, much of this material will feel overly familiar. Too often Davis’s insights and questions appear better suited to the village idiot in Agen than to an American reader in 2018 ... There are too many of these 'golly-gee' moments in Killing It, moments that leave you wondering if Davis was really ever that naïve ... Her prose skitters along with her own insecurities, becoming thin and abstract rather than rich with the details of her engagement in the gritty work she clearly loves. Rather than leading us to grapple with what she presents as the transformative power of looking death in the eye, Davis’s approach seems to suggest that we not take her book too seriously.
You'll know after the first ten pages of Camas Davis's involving, thought-provoking gastronomic memoir, Killing It, if this is a book for you ... Davis is a vivid writer and she's highly persuasive on the subject of grappling with culinary truths that most of us like to ignore.
That Davis is a skilled storyteller also is clear. And perhaps her story of becoming a champion of carnivores cannot be told without the personal relationships that influenced her work ... Davis takes the essential need to eat and compels us to examine how, why and what we consume, without preaching or judging. Killing It could be a provocative choice for book clubs, given how it propels an examination of our relationships with animals as commodities, as companions, and as coq au vin.
Davis doesn’t stint on gory details. Her ambivalence about killing comes through clearly, as does her appreciation for good meat and the small-scale farmers who humanely, or at least relatively so, raise the animals that provide it. The concentrated first half of the book, detailing the struggles of learning butchery and the people Davis meets in a country where she doesn’t speak the language, is more rewarding than the more diffuse second half, much of which is devoted to two simultaneous, messy love affairs.
Though the meat-squeamish might skip over the visceral descriptions of killing animals, Davis writes for them in particular. The author and her ilk believe those who eat meat have a moral obligation to source it as conscientiously and locally as possible. The author writes almost as much about her love life and her search for authentic self-redefinition as she does about carving carcasses. She relates her simultaneous relationships with a man and a woman, her pratfalls as a butcher’s apprentice, and the shambling state of her affairs in general, but the writing, like her life, clicks into place when she loses herself in the subject matter. The making of a young female entrepreneur rendered in unvarnished detail.
With grace and power, first-time author Davis tells of how she traded a keyboard for a cleaver ... Descriptions of the butchery process are wonderfully detailed (to cut into a pig skull, 'pull the skull and the lodged cleaver into the air... and bang it down on the table'). Her powerful writing and gift for vivid description allow readers to feel as if they, too, are embarking on a life-changing journey.