A woman’s decision to stop eating meat lends to grave repercussions in her home life.
A boy writes letters to an anonymous person detailing his year growing up as a freshman in high school.
The more I hold off on writing reviews on these books, the more I think about how much they are alike (or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself). The Vegetarian follows Yeong-hye, a young woman living with her husband in South Korea. Due to a nightmare, she abruptly decides to stop eating and cooking meat in her home. Her husband, who is used to a quiet, obedient wife, is shocked and tries to discourage Yeong-hye from completing this endeavor. Her husband is not the only one affected by her choice. The book is told through three perspectives: her husband’s, her brother-in-law’s, and her sister’s. All three document Yeong-hye’s mental deterioration as she continues to break away from what is considered ‘normal’.
Meanwhile, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is told in the perspective of a 15-year-old boy named Charlie. The epistolary novel begins when Charlie is entering high school as a freshman. Charlie is incredibly shy and sensitive, which makes him a great candidate for being a ‘fly-on-the-wall’. He details the interactions he has with his friends Sam and Patrick as well as people’s interactions around him. The book has several of the usual awkward, cringe-y scenes found in coming of age novels. Some parts made me chuckle as I remember what it’s like to be a young teenager; others made me sympathize for Charlie. The book contains examples of great character development. You are with Charlie from the start of his high school career and get to see how the events circulating his life help shape his growth.
My experience with The Perks is much more tame than The Vegetarian. Yeong-hye’s husband is the most misogynistic SOB I have ever read in literature. I understand that it is common in most cultures that the man is always the head of the household and that the wife is expected to be “seen and not heard”, but reading his segment made me want to hold his head underwater until he lost consciousness — it was so infuriating how much he treated her like she was beneath him. I also cannot emphasize this enough: marriage does not mean consent. Trigger warnings, y’all.
I thought The Vegetarian was very smartly laid out. You seldom get to hear from Yeong-hye’s point-of-view, yet you are able to learn about her through three different people. In Charlie’s case, Charlie is observing the people around him, and they are unaware (much like Yeong-hye) as to how they affect Charlie’s life.
Overall, I gave Kang’s translated work and The Perks ♥ ♥ ♥