“Father, I don’t eat meat.”
In an instant, his flat palm cleaved the empty space. My wife cupped her cheek in her hand.
“Father!” In-hye cried out, grabbing his arm. His lips twitched as though his agitation had not yet passed off. I’d known of his incredibility violent temperament for some time, but it was the first time I’d directly witnessed him striking someone.
The Vegetarian: A Novel written by Han Kang is a novel that tells the story of Yeong-Hye, a Korean homemaker’s decision to forgo meat based on a series of disturbing and violent dreams. What makes this contemporary fiction interesting are the three perspectives Kang uses to tell Yeong-Hye’s story which are her husband, brother-in-law, and her sister. The story deals with various topics that might be considered taboo to most and shows us how one person’s decision affects those closest to her.
I came across this book on Chapterstacks booktube channel. The book received mixed reviewed around the booktube community, but it still intrigued me to get a copy. Some have found it mind numbingly impactful and for others it fell flat. The general divide seem to be in its overall impact when read as an audiobook or the physical copy. I opted for the physical copy to make sure I was able to consume and understand the mindset of where each of the characters were coming from.
Today’s Cultural Relevance
The themes presented heavily weigh towards feminism, social pressure, sexual expression, family responsibility, trust, rape, and mental health. It’s interesting that the book is titled ” The Vegetarian” but Kang only mentions the characters aversion towards meat to family members force feeding methods then leading to her not eating at all; nothing pertaining to an active vegetarian or vegan diet. I find this story relevant to what most countries are experiencing especially for women in high patriarchal societies. A deeper look reveals a young woman’s method towards self expression and freedom after emotional and physical abuse.
I enjoyed reading this style of storytelling. Providing the different perspectives allowed me to get a picture of the main character’s persona. With this style we were given a look towards the cultural boundaries that are not outwardly talked about but just expected in the Korean culture. I love the last perspective given by Yeong-Hye’s older sister, In-Hye; where lots are revealed during their childhood. What was most compelling were the events that occurred for both sisters within their marriages. I find myself mesmerized by this story and can’t help but reflect on how my own decisions affect my family. With my journey adapting to a vegan and minimalist lifestyle, I have noticed different interactions from my family. The difference is that my lifestyle has become intriguing and is welcomed within my own family. I wonder what would the future have looked for Yeong-Hye if her family tried to understand rather than rejected her?
Final Review: 3.5/5 Stars
The Vegetarian: A Novel
Comment below if you’ve had similar experiences and stories about doing something out of the norm without your usual social or professional group?
Are We Friends….Why not?
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