The Vegetarian

The VegetarianThe Vegetarian by Han Kang, Deborah Smith
on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 192
ISBN: 0553448188
Buy on Amazon

Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life in South Korea. Neither seemed to attached to the other. Yes, they were married but her husband states in his narrative that there is not great love between them. He likes that his wife is ordinary and that nothing really stands out about her. She does not argue with him. She does not cause scenes. He likes this as he has “issues” himself. But they co-exhist and have no major issues between them until Yeong-hye has a dream – a nightmare really.

Her nightmare is full of blood soaked images and gore. She awakens and decides that she is no longer going to eat meat. She is attempting to purger her mind and her body of the images she saw in her dream. She holds fast to her decision to become a vegetarian no matter what her husband, his co-workers or her family has to say on the matter. She has decided to live a more “plant like” existence.

Her decision, as stated above, does not go over well. Her family – especially her father is outraged. A VEGETARIAN???? Not in his family. Due to her refusal to eat meat she is subjected to her father attempting to force feed her and ultimately strike her.

Yeong-hye clearly has some things going on with her. She appears to have a mental illness and as she continues to go deeper inside of herself and her “plant like” existence, we see how her quiet rebellion affects those in her life. We also see the worst brought out in people that are in her life. Her husband rapes her when she no longer wants to have sex with him due to him smelling like the meat her eats. Her relationships with her family are strained at best.

She is hospitalized and moves in with her sister and brother in law. Her husband leaves her and eventually Yeong-hye is left to live alone where she really deteriorates and her brother in law’s unhealthy obsession with her plays out.

This was a strange book. I liked the beginning but watching this poor woman deteriorate, fade away and be abused was sad. The book was a very well written tale about life in South Korea, obsession,mental illness, abuse, and the choices we make.


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