All Over Creation

Ruth Ozeki‘s follow up to My Year of Meats, All Over Creation, is another food book. Potatoes, particularly. She must be a food activist or something.

I can’t say I liked this one as much as Meats, but it sure took me to a lot of strange places. All Over Creation is about a woman named Yumi (pronounced you-mee but usually mistakenly pronounced yum-mee) who ran away from her small-town Idaho home when she was just 14 because she slept with and became impregnated by her twenty-four-year-old hippie teacher. And had an abortion. (The flashbacks to that part are extremely graphic and upsetting.)

Yumi has been living, teaching and selling real estate in Pahoa, Hawaii with her three children, none of whom have the same father, and she has not spoken to or seen her parents since she ran away. Her father has a third heart attack and she is summoned home by her old friend and neighbor Cass to deal with the estate etc. because he “doesn’t have much time left”. Cass, who has been taking care of Yumi’s parents for years (while the dad has been having a series of heart attacks the mom has been developing Alzheimer’s), has quite the sob story herself: her dad used to beat her, but he has since passed away, her mom died of breast cancer, she has had almost a dozen miscarriages and a bout with breast cancer herself.

There is also a band of traveling hippies (Geek, Y, Lilith, Charmey and Frankie) who live in a Winnebago, but they are not your average hippies. They call themselves the “Seeds of Revolution” because they go around the country protesting various biotechnology initiatives, including those of the company the impregnating history teacher (Elliot) works for 20 years later. This group of free spirits just so happens to worship Yumi’s father, Lloyd, based on his status as a true seed grower/farmer, so they seek him out and move on to his massive Idaho farm at the same time Yumi and Elliot make theirgrand (separate) returns to Idaho.

The story is obviously a bit dated based on the way the characters talk about technology — bio and other — so it’s actually quite amusing to see how far we have (not) come since the time of this book. The Seeds protest all the drugs and chemicals that major corporations add to everything consumers eat and drink, a fight which still seems to be going on today what with all the “free range” and “organic” crapola. (WHAT THE HECK IS FREE RANGE ANYWAY?!) Eventually we learn that the Seeds really just want proper labeling with warnings about the chemicals on all food/beverages sold in grocery stores across the country, and I have to agree with the evil PR/marketing people here because I am sort of one of them, but how do labels stop people from buying chemical-filled food/beverages? Oh, right, they don’t.

Most of the really upsetting sick/dying dad stuff happens at end of the book, and while I was obviously not thrilled about reading those parts they didn’t bother me nearly as much as the Yumi-is-such-a-horrible-mother parts. Her children sort of hate her, not because these cool hippies have come in and taken over but because she really is a horrible mother who drinks and smokes too much and runs off to have sex with — you guessed it — stupid old Elliot at the drop of a hat. She does not have the emotional maturity to be in charge of a hamster let alone three children (including one infant), so it really pisses me off how she doesn’t seem to learn anything even after her father dies and she discovers Elliot is still the scumbag he always was. I know it’s silly but, no matter how corny, I need happy endings, happy endings which prove the main character, however stupid, has learned SOMEthing.

So although I liked All Over Creation because it’s “out of my comfort zone” I don’t recommend it, mostly because I don’t think I know anyone who would enjoy it.

Next up: I have a quite the variety to choose from due to a recent birthday/people recommending me books every other week, but I am going with Mindy Kaling‘s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) for a non-fiction change of pace.

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