Ruth Ozeki spins a web of multi-layered story lines in ALL OVER
CREATION, a tale that centers on the topic of genetically
engineered vegetation (namely, potatoes) and whether they will
destroy the environment or save the world from mass starvation.
This may sound like a non-fiction dissertation, but it is not.
Ozeki uses this topic and splices it into a novel that spans
several decades, several different sub-plots and a large cast of
characters --- and she manages to tie it all together by the end of
Momoko and Lloyd Fuller have farmed potatoes for decades in Idaho.
They are quite successful at it, amassing acres of farmland while
their neighbors, the Quinn's, go bankrupt. Momoko also has a
successful seed company, doing the meticulous work of growing her
own vegetables and flowers and harvesting and cataloguing the seeds
on her own. Their daughter Yumi (called Yummy by the community) is
missing in action, having run away from home when she was fourteen.
She had been in contact with her mother through letters over the
years, but she has not seen either parent since then. Although she
has written to her mother numerous times and received responses
from Momoko, Lloyd has not written or tried to make any contact
with his daughter since the last time he saw her --- during a major
confrontation about a man Yummy had been dating. This was
twenty-five years ago.
Yummy becomes the prodigal daughter who returns to Idaho straight
from Hawaii to visit with her parents before it is too late. She is
told that Lloyd is ill and that she is needed at home. In tow are
Yummy's three young children --- Phoenix, Ocean and "Poo" ---
fathered by three different men. Yummy's arrival creates a stir
with the family, along with the entire community.
Will and Cass Quinn have bought most of Lloyd's land and are
farming it, since Lloyd is too ill to do it any longer. They
currently live next door to the Fuller's in Cass's parents' old
house, allowing Lloyd and Momoko to live on the property until
their deaths. Cass happens to be Yummy's best friend from grade
school and feels somewhat resentful that Yummy never kept in touch.
The fact that Cass and Will are also childless causes even more
tension between the two women. Cass knows that Yummy is obviously
not a good role model and subconsciously feels that she could have
done a better job.
Because of Yummy's absence all these years, Cass has taken it upon
herself to help out the Fuller's. She helps feed them since
Momoko's memory lapses prevent her from remembering to cook. She
helps Lloyd by changing his colostomy bag twice a day and she is
the one who contacts Yummy, asking her to come home. Cass feels
that Lloyd's time on this planet is nearing its end. Just as Cass
watched out for Yummy when they were kids, she is now watching out
for Yummy and her family as an adult.
"The Seeds" form the third side of this triangle. A group of
protesters who are spreading the warnings about genetically
engineered potatoes, The Seeds drive around in their converted RV
they named SPUDNIK. They are traveling cross-country, spawning
protests and doing some minor damage at grocery stores,
occasionally getting arrested. Their message is that these
vegetables are harmful to the environment and that organic farming
is the way to go.
At first, The Seeds don't seem to fit in with the rest of the
novel, but their role becomes clear when they make their way to
Idaho in search of Lloyd and Momoko Fuller, the owners of Fuller's
Seeds. Their lives collide and, with Yummy back in the picture, it
seems that the center of anti-genetically-engineered sentiments is
now in Idaho. Unbeknownst to all of them, Yummy's old childhood
lover, Elliott, is at the heart of the controversy but is working
for the "other team." He lies his way back into Yummy's life, with
Yummy totally clueless about his intentions.
ALL OVER CREATION is a fairly complex story. The heart of the book
lies within the relationships between Lloyd and the other
characters, especially with his daughter Yumi. Despite the
scientific theme of the book, Ruth Ozeki puts a lot of heart and
soul into it and makes for an enjoyable read. This reviewer highly
recommends ALL OVER CREATION and looks forward to reading her first
book, MY YEAR OF MEATS.
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton on January 20, 2011
All Over Creation