WILD MEAT AND THE BULLY BURGERS by Lois-Ann Yamanaka

WILD MEAT AND THE BULLY BURGERS

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A sharp, funny, and fast-paced (occasionally manic) first novel that takes us backstage in paradise--into the very heart and soul (and guts) of a working-class Japanese-American family on the island of Hawaii. The narrator is young Lovey Nariyoshi, and, as she herself might tell you, she one big haole wannabe. That's how Lovey talks, and that's how everybody she knows talks--except for haole teachers like Mr. Harvey who try, to no avail, to educate the Japanese- American kids out of saying dis and dat and wuz and cuz. Lovey's family is poorer than most--the book's title refers to her father's many schemes to find meat, including roadkill, to put on the family table. And Lovey's constant quest, once she realizes she can never have haole ringlets like Shirley Temple, is at least to have clothes that don't look laughably homemade. Along with best friend Jerome and, occasionally, her younger sister Calhoun, Lovey embarks on a series of misadventures all in the cause of a better life. These include such events as selling stolen marijuana cigarettes to finance the purchase of new Barbie and Ken dolls; getting caught up in the religious zeal of a crazed teacher who sees the devil behind every door; and spying on Jerome's brother in the throes of passion with his girlfriend. For much of the novel--too much of the novel- -these mishaps read like a series of hilarious but disjointed episodes. It's not until the third and final section that events and people are linked into a compelling narrative and we really begin to understand what Yamanaka, a Pushcart Prizewinning poet and short-story writer, is capable of. And though it's a risky undertaking to write a whole novel in dialect, it works here on the whole, the speech patterns resonating like poetry. Too fragmented at the start, but a finish that's more luminous than a Hawaiian sunset. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-374-29020-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1995




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