My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki

My Year of Meats has a unique, loopy premise: the Japanese Beef Board, in an attempt to increase meat consumption, sponsors a series of TV documentaries on “average” US housewives who, in the course of a thirty-minute episode, will cook a meat-centered meal for their family. The first episode focuses on an apparently standard Midwest family, in which the wife cooks an all-American rump roast with Coke (really!) but then the husband reveals — on the air — that he’s having an affair. Things get much stranger from then on, to include a lamb-chop cooking family (not good for the beef board) and a lesbian-headed, vegetarian-only family (definitely not acceptable for the producer, on either count.) Great fun is had by the reader as well as, we are told, by the enthusiastic Japanese audience. In this happy state, the reader easily ignores the boring sex life of the Japanese-American female filmmaker (is there a new rule that every woman-written novel must include detailed descriptions?) and appreciates the sweetly sad sub-story of the Japanese producer’s abused wife.

Then, unfortunately, the author moves into crusader mode as the documentary lands in a Colorado feedlot where hormones are used freely, little girls grow breasts, and much questionable beef is produced, and the story gets stuck in self-righteous tirades, an avenging mother, and multiple firings. Why ruin such an off-the-wall novel with a lecture?

I suppose you could try to stop reading 60 pages from the end…

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1 Comment

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One response to “My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki

  1. Pingback: ** A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki | FT's Books

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