Saturday, January 19, 2008

My Year of Meats

A couple years back, I stumbled across a book called All Over Creation, by Ruth Ozeki. I really enjoyed it, so I looked up the author, and this was the only other book she'd written. So I went to my local library, but they didn't have it. I then promptly forgot all about it for about a year...and then the other day at the library, I randomly checked the shelf, and there it was!

I don't think My Year of Meats was quite as good as All Over Creation. Perhaps that's because MYOM was Ozeki's first novel? If so, I can't wait to read her next! She is a great writer and an excellent user of punctuation. (That's for you, Mom.) Her stories are gripping and her subject matter is timely.

Oh, you want to know what the book is about? Well. Hm. It's about a Japanese-American woman filmmaker and the year that she spends shooting a TV series aired in Japan. The series is paid for by a meat company called BEEF-EX, and the idea is to entice Japanese women into eating more meat by showing them all-American wives cooking their meaty delicious dinners in a wholesome atmosphere.

It's also about a Japanese wife who watches the show. It's about her abusive husband, her infertility, and her isolation. It's about her gradual discovery that she can choose something better, and about how hard that choice can be.

It's about a DES daughter and her struggle with infertility and her fear of the other side effects of misunderstood synthetic hormones, etc. It's about her gradual discovery of the unsavory practices at work in the American meat industry, and how these large-scale things can have an intimate effect on her life. It's also about her confusing personal relationship with a musician, and her feeling of never fully belonging in one place or another, of always being on the fringe.

What I love the most about Ozeki's books is how she takes these big political and sociological issues and makes them real and personal. She manages to feed you information about the issues in an interesting and varied way, so that you never feel like you're being preached to. And the book isn't ultimately about what conclusions YOU might come to about the issues, but is simply the story of some real people and how they dealt with them.

But. She does use some surprising profanity that distracts me from the story. And, in this particular story, there are several violent things that happen, including rape. So beware. I definitely wouldn't recommend this book to just anyone.

Still, it's a good read, and I wouldn't mind owning it. I look forward to her next novel!

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