The Vegetarian

Earlier this year, I saw one a new favorite film, Chan-wook Park’s The Handmaiden. Another Korean work, I was reminded of this movie the whole time I read The Vegetarian. Like the film, this book is filled with beguiling scene setting, characters, plot and motivation that keep you guessing, and is, above all, a beautifully crafted story that keeps the audience wrapped in its tentacles (or perhaps its ivy) from start to finish.

This slim novel, as slim as its protagonist, is set in three parts (a proven literary device) and told from three perspectives but the whole time your attention, empathy and interest are invested in the protagonist. We hardly get any of her thoughts or words, only a few italicized passages and conversations. But we go on a journey with her unlike any other. The journey is inward, through a maze of dreams, anxieties and breakdowns. No one in her life is equiped to help her. She might not even want help.

This book also reminded me of one of my favorite 2016 reads, An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. Through crisp writing, a fascinating female protagonist, and a journey inward, it reveals much about the world outside.