This was a disappointing book. On the NYT 10 best book list and billed as young woman’s fight for control and independence by going vegetarian despite the wishes of husband and family, it started out as a book about how others in your life pressure you to fit into social norms but then drifted into something else. <Spoiler Alert>
An unexpected turn is of course good if done well but that took a completely unsatisfying direction. It becomes increasingly clear that the protagonist is just plain crazy. If the intention was to imply that family and the pressure they placed on her drove her to that state, it is not well-laid out and the connection is very weak. She is an unsympathetic character and unlike other books about the mentally ill, there was little to no useful insight I gained from watching the deterioration of the protagonist. It may have been realistic, but it was not powerful emotionally as well as being uninformative. I do not necessarily think it is the author’s intention but one interpretation of the book that some will absorb (and which I find a little disturbing) is to link vegetarianism with being crazy.
Title: The Vegetarian
Author: Han Kang
Reviewer, author of Friction in Motion