A Book Review by Stefanie Field
Pow! by Mo Yan
Mo Yan’s POW! is a strange story. The first word that comes to mind is “meat.” A man comes to his local temple and begins to weave a tale of his life to the monk. What emerges is one of the weirdest stories I have ever read. The young boy narrator describes his life in a butcher village, every moment of his childhood revolving around meat to the extent he calls himself the Meat God. In actuality, his story is about his estranged family and his ultimate revenge against Lan Lao.
POW! is not about a roller coaster ride of emotions or events. Rather, it centers on a boy’s passion for story-telling, and thus his narration of his childhood which seems quite ridiculous. With the innocence and naivety of a young age, Luo Xiaotong actually assumes a lot of responsibility while carrying plenty of rage against his mother and Lan Lao. Within the story, the adults certainly recognize the author’s unique way to spin words and reasoning to his advantage. Nevertheless, as the narrator talks to the monk, knowing the character is quite fond of his own voice, much of the novel seems far-fetch’d to a realistic adult reader. To the passionate character stuck in his childhood like Peter Pan, regardless if his words are stretched, the story is unquestionable. Thus, his narration becomes a wild and confusing twist of small tales.
As much as I dislike the characters of the story, I enjoyed the depiction of Luo Xiaotong’s family life. It certainly wasn’t a happy life, and there’s hardly any bonding. Luo’s mother is strong-headed and determined to survive by whatever means necessary, even if she must sacrifice meat and resort to rummaging through trash. Luo’s father is not loyal or faithful, and eventually he loses all value to concepts of ‘duty’ or ‘passion.’ He may have been the most realistic of the entire cast, though. Lan Lao shares a love/hate relationship with Luo Xiatong. He has the power (and doesn’t hesitate to use it) to give and take away anything Luo Xiatong has ever owned or loved.
In general, the story has much to amuse the reader. However, in many cases, I found myself easily able to put the book down and walk away for good. While the narrative is interesting, there’s no particular element that makes me curious for the ending. After the last page, I didn’t feel content with the experience, but I can’t say it let me down either.
I rated POW! two stars out of five.