Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers (Harvest Book) Paperback – April 15, 1997
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Pre-order today
Frequently bought together
Told in the distinctive rhythms of Hawaiian Creole English, this vibrant...wholly original” coming-of-age tale (Elle) is “a rare book-exuberant, fresh-voiced, rich, crazy, stabbing, comic, and as true-toned as a crystal glass tapped with a knife” (E. Annie Proulx).
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Now, when authors are new to me, I do not search out any reviews or biographical information before hand as I don't want to color my perception of their work, positively or negatively. So when I looked at the list of Yamanaka's work, this novel was the first listed and so I went with it. And am I glad I did.
Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers is set in and about Hilo, Hawai'i (the big Island) in the 1970s. Our lead is the appealing Lovey (interestingly, one letter shy of Lovely), a relatively plain girl from a working class Hawai'i. As the blurb says, her Hawai'i is not the Hawai'i of picture post cards. Her family are barely surviving financially, unable to afford the comforts that the haole (white) islanders and many of those with whom Lovey goes to school have. This instills in Lovey a somewhat covetous personality. Like all children, she wants to fit in, be smart and popular and have the coolest things. And her attempts to fit in always seem to backfire, reminding her of her "place" in life.
While Lovey is our main character, most all of her interactions within the novel take place with her friend Jerry, a young man with a seemingly unending positive outlook and as much of an outcast as Lovey. Likewise, her father, a nisei (second generation Japanese American), is an important part of their life, their relationship at times wonderfully close and at other times strained by Lovey's desire to be more than who she is.
At its heart, this novel is a coming-of-age book, the journey of a young girl who is just beginning to grow up and realize what really is important in life. But what this story also is is the story of a young woman and the men in her life...Jerry and her father. While her mother, grandmother, aunty and sister are indeed in her life, the focus always returns to Jerry or her father. While I would have enjoyed seeing more of Lovey's relationship with the women in her life, the richness of her interactions with the men in her life is outstanding and full. One (especially one of the male gender) comes away with a strong understanding of the bond between father and daughter. And blessedly, Yamanaka makes that relationship utterly realistic.
Lovey's relationship with Jerry is wonderfully imbued with a strong sense of what friendship is. As in reality, sometimes the two can't stand one another. They fight and get jealous of one another, but in the end, they always end up together. Truly wonderful.
One of the things about Jerry that was missing for me is the implication that Jerry was gay. The blurb indicates that Jerry is effeminate, implying homosexuality. I didn't particularly see this to be true. Yes, he does play Barbies with Lovey, his interest are a bit off the beaten path compared to other boys, and both he and Lovey are constantly call derogatory names for gays by the "cool kids," but he never read as particularly effeminate or gay to me. In some respects, I would have like to have seen that dealt with more, but when I came away from the novel I realized that whether Jerry was or wasn't gay didn't matter. Because it didn't matter to Lovey. The only thing that mattered was their friendship. I walked away finding that refreshing.
In this novel, Yamanaka touches on a lot of issues. Classism. Racism. The loss of cultural heritage and homeland. But she deals with hem subtly and always in context of the story. We absolutely feel for Lovey when she is made fun of. We get angry at her when she picks on others from a different cultural background. Our heart aches when her father tells how his own father never saw Japan again before he died. It is all beautifully done.
Yamanaka also captures the spirit of the island. She doesn't do this by describing details of the locales, but rather by the use of Hawaiian Creole (pidgin) in the dialog and the prose. The result is a vivid portrayal of time and place that feels like home for us non-Hawaiian readers, yet is different enough so that we know we aren't in our own home. Likewise, Yamanaka brings emotional truth to the story, a universality that draws us to each of the characters. In the end, while we know we aren't a teen Japanese American girl, we understand and can empathize with all she is going through.
For those readers who grew up in the 70s, there is a lot here that will let you take a stroll down memory lane and which helps to provide the emotional connection to the characters. Yamanaka gets all the details right, from Bobby Sherman to wax coke bottle candies.
Perhaps the best thing about this novel is that while Lovey is covetous of those around her, her life is allowing her to build something more precious than the right clothes or the right tape recorder...she's building memories that will last forever.
I can not imaging coming-of-age novels getting any better than this and I can not recommend this book more strongly.