My Year of Meat is a convincing blend of
fact and fiction that will undoubtedly alter the way you view a
"nice bit of steak", particularly if you are a frequent
visitor to the United States. What makes this book such a winner is that
Ozeki combines fact with social satire so that humour in
always lurking below the surface, even when such "meaty"
issues as domestic violence, eating disorders, drug-induced cancer and
cross-cultural misunderstandings are being discussed.
The main character, Jane Takagi-Little,
is the daughter of a Japanese mother and an American father. An
unemployed documentary maker, Jane leaps at the opportunity to
co-ordinate a joint Japanese-American television series called "My
American Wife!" about American families and their favourite meat
dishes. Jane's role is to find these "authentic" families and
persuade them to take part in the programme. During the course of the
year Jane begins to find her conscience is at war with her bank account
as she learns about meat production in the USA.
Running parallel to Jane's story of
discovery is the story of unhappy Japanese wife, Akiko Ueno, whose
violent, domineering husband is also involved in the creation of
"My American Wife!". Joichi forces his wife to re-create the
meals she sees on the programme, with surprizing results for them both.
My Year of Meat is as entertaining as it is informative, and reveals as
much about the changing nature of American society as it does about meat
production. I look forward with anticipation to Ozeki's next novel, All
Over Creation, in which she tackles the production of genetically