I was looking for a book for the 2018 Read Harder Challenge task #10 when I came across My Year of Meats. I had read A Tale for the Time Being last year and love Ozeki’s style. This one was listed by my library as a romance, which was just what I needed for the challenge, so I picked up the audio book and started listening to it. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t really call it a romance, so I hesitate to count it for the challenge. Nevertheless, its a good book that I enjoyed reading. Ozeki has a way of writing about normal yet disturbing things that reminds us that we can do something about them.
Obviously, this book is about meat. Jane, our primary protagonist, is a producer for a reality tv show that takes place in the US but airs in Japan called “My American Wife”. I actually love the concept of this show. Well, I love the way Jane wants to do it. I love the idea of the episodes that Jane talks about throughout most of the book. If only there wasn’t the politics of advertisement, and not just for the book. The idea of going around the country and showcasing how regular people live and eat is amazing. Execution of this idea would probably be as flawed as it was in the book.
The secondary protagonist is Akiko and her story takes place in Japan. It is every bit as emotional but her struggle is different. The way Ozeki crosses culture again in this story is part of what I love about her writing. She beautifully captures the diversity of the American experience and then contrasts it to Japan, not that Akiko is necessarily a “typical” Japanese woman. I don’t have any basis to know that with any authority. She is an interesting character, though, particularly in contrast to Jane.
Between the two protagonists and the emphasis of the show on wives, the story is centered on those struggles of women that are fairly common. Not all women want children, but many of us forced into facing that question from all sides of our lives, whether or not we are ready. We have to contend with our answer and what those around think our answer should be. I don’t know why, it just seems to be a thing. I’ve also been finding out since having my own baby troubles that so many women have baby troubles, whether it’s getting pregnant or staying pregnant.
We must also contend with dating men and all the horrible or wonderful possibilities that come with boyfriends and husbands and the inevitable question about what we will do when we have kids because there is this perception out there that choosing to work is really entirely up to our desires and not dictated by things like family finances and social convention. Anyway, we meet plenty of wonderful wives and mothers and they also contribute to the shape of the story. I’d also like to add that for a story so centered on women’s experience, this is not at all a story that demonizes men. I adored most of the male characters with only a few exceptions.
While I would generally recommend this book to anyone who I know is looking for an outside the box contemporary fiction, I do also find it important to mention that there are triggers for both rape and sexual assault in this book. I’d also steer clear if you have trouble with stories involving baby troubles. Personally, I can’t deal with most book that have a small child that dies or comes close to dying but that much of it is about the way the book handles it. Baby troubles here are more about miscarriage and infertility, though. They are an unfortunately normal part of the female experience, and should be written about, but not everyone can always handle it, either.
Now that I’ve possibly ruined the story, I will say again that it is a really good book about the lives and worries of women and discusses painful topics that we shouldn’t just ignore and hope they don’t happen to us. I borrowed My Year of Meats from the library but it could also be purchased. Click on the cover image to be redirected to Booklikes for options or add to Goodreads for later.