Wednesday, November 16, 2016


This unusual novel is told from the perspective of three characters, none of whom is the title character.  The book is divided into three parts, so that each narrator has his/her own section.  The vegetarian in question is Yeong-hye, a South Korean woman who has a frightening dream that persuades her to stop eating meat immediately.  Her husband narrates the first section and confesses that he chose Yeong-hye as his wife especially for her lack of distinction.  Even after throwing out all of the meat in the freezer and adopting a vegetarian diet, she continues to have nightmares, and her weight loss drives her father to try to force feed her at a family dinner.  After a brief stay in a mental hospital, she attracts the attention of her sister’s husband, an artist who narrates the second section.  He takes advantage of Yeong-hye’s fragile emotional state for his own warped artistic purposes.  Yeong-hye’s sister narrates the final and most poignant section, in which she laments the fact that Yeong-hye has lost the right to make decisions about her own body.  Finally, in this section, we get a few cryptic clues as to why Yeong-hye has made this transformation, but I felt that by diminishing in size she was increasing in distinctiveness.  Not that I think she was trying to get attention, but especially in the middle section of the book, she sheds her mediocrity and becomes her brother-in-law’s erotic obsession.  She is the catalyst not only for the demise of her own marriage but also her sister’s, so that she becomes a force for radical change in the lives of other people.

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