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All over Creation
     

All over Creation

4.8 9
by Ruth Ozeki
 

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A warm and witty saga about agribusiness, environmental activism, and community—from the celebrated author of My Year of Meats and A Tale for the Time Being

Yumi Fuller hasn’t set foot in her hometown of Liberty Falls, Idaho—heart of the potato-farming industry—since she ran away at age fifteen. Twenty-five years later

Overview

A warm and witty saga about agribusiness, environmental activism, and community—from the celebrated author of My Year of Meats and A Tale for the Time Being

Yumi Fuller hasn’t set foot in her hometown of Liberty Falls, Idaho—heart of the potato-farming industry—since she ran away at age fifteen. Twenty-five years later, the prodigal daughter returns to confront her dying parents, her best friend, and her conflicted past, and finds herself caught up in an altogether new drama. The post-millennial farming community has been invaded by Agribusiness forces at war with a posse of activists, the Seeds of Resistance, who travel the country in a camping car, “The Spudnick,” biofueled by pilfered McDonald’s french-fry oil. Following her widely hailed, award-winning debut novel, My Year of Meats, Ruth Ozeki returns here to deliver a quirky cast of characters and a wickedly humorous appreciation of the foibles of corporate life, globalization, political resistance, youth culture, and aging baby boomers. All Over Creation tells a celebratory tale of the beauty of seeds, roots, and growth—and the capacity for renewal that resides within us all.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Ruth Ozeki and All Over Creation

“Ozeki is one of my favorite novelists . . . bewitching, intelligent, hilarious, and heartbreaking, often on the same page.”
—Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of This Is How You Lose Her

“In precise and luminous prose, Ozeki captures both the sweep and detail of our shared humanity. The result is gripping, fearless, inspiring and true.”
—Madeline Miller, author of the Orange Prize winner The Song of Achilles

“Ozeki is a gifted storyteller. All Over Creation buzzes and blooms with the cross-pollination of races and subcultures, death and birth, betrayal and reconciliation, comedy and tragedy.”
—Los Angeles Time Book Review

“Sophisticated . . . a nice blend of humor and strangely affecting optimism. Ozeki has written a book where dread and hope coexist. Neither is given short shrift or magicked away.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“Ozeki joins the constellation of such environmentally aware writers as Barbara Kingsolver, Annie Proulx, and Margaret Atwood, bringing her own shrewd and playful humor, luscious sexiness, and kinetic pizzazz to the table, as well her keen interest in the interface between food, family, science, and corporate greed and the dynamics of spin. . . . Moving neatly between the intimate and the environmental, the familial and the global, Ozeki hones each vivid description, witty conversation and surprising occurrence to illuminate the complex dichotomies between love and responsibility, nature and culture, traditional and corporate agriculture, traditional and corporate agriculture, fact and fabrication.”
—Chicago Tribune

“Ruth Ozeki is bent on taking the novel into corners of American culture no one else has thought to look—but where she finds us in all our technological weirdness. With a combination of humor and pathos that is all her own, Ozeki brings the American pastoral forward into the age of agribusiness and genetic engineering. The result is a smart compelling novel about a world we don’t realize we live in.”
—Michael Pollan

“All Over Creation opens wider with every plot twist as it moves from tenderness to comedy to sobering truth and the world in the eye of one family’s storm. This is Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang updated by thirty years, with modern environmental challenges on the map and women in the front seat, driving the story. Hooray—Ozeki rides again.”
—Barbara Kingsolver

“Ozeki deftly and sensitively folds the variegated topics together, whipping up a savory treat.”
—Entertainment Weekly

“This winning novel . . . is a feast of humor and wisdom about family and friendship.”
—Glamour

“Bewitching . . . Ozeki’story splices a bit of Edward Abbey into an Anne Tyler plot. The fruits of this mix are definitely worth tasting.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A feast for mind and heart.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 

USA Today
The return of this prodigal daughter is the core of Ruth Ozeki's new novel, a sprawling, good-hearted story about friendship, family discord, reconciliation and the slow, creative process of social change. — Anne Stephenson
The New York Times
This is great material for a novel. The radicals in particular make for a nice blend of humor and strangely affecting optimism. Ozeki has written a book where dread and hope coexist. Neither is given short shrift or magicked away. Nature isn't dead yet, but just to be on the safe side, let's buy organic. — Claire Dederer
Publishers Weekly
"Every seed has a story," says Geek, an environmental activist in Ruth Ozeki's new novel (after My Year of Meats), which is all about seeds-real and metaphorical ones. The Seeds of Resistance is a small anti-biotech group targeting Nu-Life potato, a laboratory-designed tuber produced by agribusiness company Cyanco. Heading for the heart of potato country, the ragged activists end up in Liberty Falls, Idaho, encamped at the home of Lloyd and Momoko Fuller, elderly purveyors of natural seeds. Though they're hardly radicals, the Fullers are also opposed to genetic modification of plants. Against the odds, the hippie Seeds and the conservative Fullers become friends. It is the other adult in the Fuller household, their only daughter, Yumi, who is suspicious of the Seeds. Yumi is an ex-hippie living in Hawaii, but she's returned home to care for her parents (her father is recovering from his last heart attack; her mother has Alzheimer's). Emotionally, Yumi is rather a mess. She has a bit of a problem with alcohol, and is unable to resist inappropriate guys, having three kids with as many men (Phoenix, 14; Ocean, 6; and baby Poo). A classic "bad seed," Yumi ran away from home at 14, after having an affair with her history teacher, Elliot Rhodes; back in Liberty Falls, she runs into Elliot and is again attracted. He is working for Cyanco's PR firm, spying on the Seeds. When the Seeds hold a Fourth of July potato protest on the Fullers' property, Elliot arranges for them to be arrested, with dire consequences for Lloyd. Apart from some awkward dialogue (the Seeds invariably intersperse their sentences with "dude"), this quirky novel is bewitching. Yumi's bumpy relationship with Lloyd and Lloyd's unexpected fondness for the Seeds are especially well rendered. Ozeki's story splices a bit of Edward Abbey into an Anne Tyler plot. The fruits of this mix are definitely worth tasting. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Recalling her debut novel, My Year of Meats, which addresses the issue of hormones in that food, Ozeki's follow-up uses concerns about potentially harmful pesticides in potatoes to address larger questions. Set on a tuber farm in Idaho, the book introduces Cassie Quinn, caretaker extraordinaire who, with potato farmer husband Will, has been looking out for Lloyd and Momoko, the failing parents of childhood friend Yumi ("Yummy"). When Lloyd suffers his third or fourth heart attack, Cass decides to find Yummy, who ran away from home 25 years ago. After receiving Cass's pleas, Yummy, now a 39-year-old college professor in Hawaii, decides to return home with her three children, each by a different father. What follows is a handsomely told story of life's struggles and triumphs. Except for some slight predictability at the end, Ozeki manages to draw out strong characters, tackle serious issues, and intertwine humor and heartache all in the same work. Readers who appreciate strong female Asian American protagonists like those in works by Lois-Ann Yamanaka will find this novel engrossing. Highly recommended for large fiction and Asian American fiction collections in public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/02.]-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Second-novelist Ozeki (My Year of Meats, 1998) shifts her focus to potatoes in this full-course meal of a story about family farmers, environmental activists, and corporate agribusinessmen whose interests collide on a farm in Liberty Falls, Idaho. Retired potato farmer and semi-invalid Lloyd Fuller and his Japanese wife Momo, who suffers from advancing Alzheimer’s, have sold most of their acreage to their daughter Yumi’s childhood friend Cass and her husband, but they still run a small catalogue seed company out of Momo’s garden. No one has seen Yumi since she ran away at 14 after Lloyd found out about her "affair" with history teacher Elliot Rhodes, but when Lloyd suffers a heart attack, Cass tracks her down. Yumi, now a part-time college teacher and real-estate developer in Hawaii, arrives at the farm with her three children (from three fathers) so full of unresolved angst that she barely registers the emotional crisis quietly brewing within Cass over her childlessness and a recent bout of cancer. Soon the Seeds of Resistance, a troop of eco-activists, show up and proclaim Lloyd, whose Christian fundamentalist beliefs about life’s sacred nature mesh with their own New Age-y ones, their new guru. Yumi finds herself the outsider as the Seeds care for her ailing father, charm her kids, and help Momo catalogue her seeds before memory fades completely. Meanwhile, Elliot, now a p.r. flack for an agribusiness, is sent to Idaho to push one of its products that the Seeds happen to be protesting. Yumi and Elliot reconnect, though this time it’s Elliot who is smitten. Lloyd’s health deteriorates, the Seeds plan a major action, and Elliot’s agribusiness operatives run amok. Liberty Falls becomesthe intersection of intense personal drama—romantic and familial—and intense eco-political (both economic and ecological) theatrics. Add a thorough history of American potato farming and a huge cast of characters, most fully realized and heart-wrenching in their imperfect yearnings. A feast for mind and heart. Author tour. Agent: Molly Friedrich/Aaron Priest Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780142003893
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/30/2004
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
205,570
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

in the beginning

It starts with the earth. How can it not? Imagine the planet like a split peach, whose pit forms the core, whose flesh its mantle, and whose fuzzy skin its crust-no, that doesn't do justice to the crust, which is, after all, where all of life takes place. The earth's crust must be more like the rind of the orange, thicker and more durable, quite unlike the thin skin of a bruisable peach. Or is it? Funny, how you never think to wonder.

On one small section of that crust-small, that is, by global or geologic measure-in Power County, Idaho, where the mighty Snake River carved out its valley and where volcanic ash enriched the soil with minerals vital to its tilth, there stretched a vast tract of land known as Fuller Farms.

Vast, by human scale. Vast, relative to other farmers' holdings in the region, like the Quinns' place down the road. And as for the description, "land belonging," well that's a condition measured in human time, too. But for one quick blip in the 5 billion years of life on this earth, that three thousand acres of potato-producing topsoil and debatably the slender cone of the planet that burned below, right down to the rigid center of its core, belonged to my father, Lloyd Fuller.

It used to be the best topsoil around. Used to be feet of it, thick, loamy. There's less of it now. But still, imagine you are a seed-of an apple, or a melon, or even the pit of a peach-spit from the lips of one of Lloyd's crossbred grandchildren, arcing through the air and falling to earth, where you are ground into the soil, under a heel, to rest and overwinter. Months pass, and it is cold and dark. Then slowly, slowly, spring creeps in, the sun tickles the earth awake again, its warmth thaws the soil, and your coat, which has protected you from the winter frosts, now begins to crack. Oh, so tentatively you send a threadlike root to plumb the ground below, while overhead your pale shoot pushes up through the sedentary mineral elements (the silt, the sand, the clay), through the teeming community of microfauna (bacteria and fungi, the algae and the nematodes), past curious macrofauna (blind moles, furry voles, and soft, squirming earthworms). This is life in the Root Zone, nudging your tendril toward the warmth of the sunny sun sun.

And then imagine the triumphant moment when you crack the crumbly crust, poke your wan and wobbling plumule head through the surface and start to unfurl-imagine, from your low and puny perspective, how vast Lloyd Fuller's acreage must look to you now.

Of course, during most of his tenure and the decades that followed, these three thousand acres were given over primarily to the planting of potatoes, which means that you, being a random seedling, a volunteer, an accidental fruit, will most likely be uprooted. Just as you turn your face into the rays and start to respire, maybe even spread out a leaf or two and get down to the business of photosynthesizing-grrrrrip, weeded right out of there. Sayonara, baby.

That's what it felt like when I was growing up, like I was a random fruit in a field of genetically identical potatoes. Burbanks-that's what people planted. Centuries of cross-pollination, human migration, plant mutation, and a little bit of backyard luck had resulted in the pride of Idaho, the world's best baker, the Russet Burbank. From one side of the state to the other spread a glorious monoculture of these large, white, long-bodied tubers with rough, reticulated skin, high in solids content with a mealy texture when cooked and a pleasing potatoey flavor.

Honestly, I never liked potatoes much. I preferred rice, a taste I inherited from my mother, Momoko, and which, in a state of spuds, was tantamount to treason. Momoko used to make me rice balls, the size of fingerlings, to take to school in my lunch box. Lloyd called them "Tokyo tubers"-this was his idea of a joke-and when I was a little girl, I thought it was pretty funny, too. I used to look forward to lunchtime, opening my plastic Barbie box, where, nestled next to a slice of meat loaf or ham, I'd find the two little o-musubi sitting neatly side by side. They tasted faintly salty, like Momoko's small hands. If the other kids thought my lunch was queer, they didn't say much, because Lloyd Fuller had more acres, and thus more potatoes, than almost any other farmer in Power County, and I was Yummy, his only child.

No one said much either when Lloyd brought my mom home from Japan after the war, at least not to his face. Just that she was the cutest thing they had ever seen, so delicate and fragile looking, like a china doll, and how was she ever going to handle the work of running a farm? But she did. Lloyd had inherited five hundred acres, adjacent to the Quinns' place and up from where the Snake River was dammed, and he and Momoko rolled up their sleeves and went to work. People used to smile, call them Mutt and Jeff, because Lloyd was one of the tallest men in Power County and Momoko bought her work clothes in the little boys' department at Sears. You can imagine the two of them, standing in the fields, side by side, Lloyd as tall as a runner bean stalk and Momoko barely coming up to his buckle. Dressed in jeans turned up at the cuff and hanging from her shoulders by suspenders, she looked like Lloyd's son instead of his wife. The son they never had. After twelve years of trying, they had me instead-named me Yumi, only nobody in Liberty Falls could say it right. Yummy, yummy, yummy, I got love in my tummy. People said I was the apple of Lloyd's eye, the pride of his heart, until I went rotten.

As it turned out, Momoko was a born gardener, or, as Cassie Quinn's mom used to put it, "She may be yeller, but her thumb sure is green." Maybe this was meant to be a compliment, and we all took it that way. Over the years Momoko's kitchen garden grew into a vegetative wonder, and she planted varieties of fruits and flowers that no one had ever seen before in Power County. I remember her whispering to her pea vines as they curled their way up her trellises: "Gambatte ne, tané-chan!" "Be strong, my little seedling!" People drove for miles to see her Oriental ornamentals and Asian creepers. Their massy inflorescence burst into bloom in the spring and stayed that way throughout summer and deep into the fall. It was truly exotic.

Momoko must have been proud of Fuller Farms, in the early days. Lloyd surely was. In the first years of their marriage, they battled droughts and early freezes, mildews and viruses and parasites, and a host of pests that nobody could imagine why God had even bothered to create:

Seedcorn maggots, leatherjackets, and millipedes.

Thrips and leafhoppers.

False cinch bugs, blister beetles, and two-spotted spider mites.

Hornworms, wireworms, white grubs, and green peach aphids, not to mention corky ringspot...

And, most dreadful of all, the rapacious Colorado potato beetle.

All these creatures were dealt with, and thank God for science.

"Insect infestations are one of the greatest threats to the production of high-quality tubers," Lloyd used to say in the introduction to the speech that he gave every year to the Young Potato Growers of Idaho. "It is crucial to plan the applications of pesticides to harmonize with seasonable cultural practices."

"Seasonable cultural practices"-how he liked the sound of that! I remember him practicing the phrase, standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom, and when I stood there and looked at my reflection, I would practice saying it, too. Fuller Farms seemed living proof to us all that with the cooperation of God and science, and the diligent application of seasonable cultural practices, man could work in harmony with nature to create a relationship of perfect symbiotic mutualism. The first five hundred acres had grown to a holding of three thousand by the time I turned fourteen.

That was 1974, the year Nixon resigned, the year Patty Hearst was kidnapped and Evel Knievel attempted his historic leap across the Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered motorcycle. But most important of all, it was the year of the Nine-Dollar Potato.

Consider the economics. Year after year you teeter along in a stable 'tater market, breaking even at $3.50 per hundred pounds of premium grade. When the price goes up to $4.00, you make a little, when it goes down to $3.00, you lose a little, but generally you fall in the balance and scrape by. Then, out of the blue, nature blesses you by cursing others. She sends an early frost to Maine, too much rain to California-1974 was certainly an odd year for weather, everywhere except Idaho. The failure of the nation's crops, combined with the explosive demand for french fries created by the burgeoning fast-food market, resulted in a potato shortage that sent prices rocketing into the clear blue heavens. Across the country, housewives who paid $1.29 for a ten-pound bag last year were now paying $2.39, and all of this translated into an unheard-of, unbelievable bonanza, the $9.00 per hundredweight that made my father a rich, albeit flabbergasted, farmer.

So there was Lloyd, in his prime, a Depression-born agriculturalist exercising pride in his new capitalist muscle. And who gives a flying fuck what happened after that? That's what you would have thought anyway, if you were me, on a predawn winter morning in 1974, stuffing your clothes and diary into your father's army duffel, lifting the keys to his pickup truck from the hook in the kitchen, and creeping down the porch stairs, out into the frigid night, careful not to slam the door behind you.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
Praise for Ruth Ozeki and All Over Creation

“Ozeki is one of my favorite novelists . . . bewitching, intelligent, hilarious, and heartbreaking, often on the same page.”
—Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of This Is How You Lose Her

“In precise and luminous prose, Ozeki captures both the sweep and detail of our shared humanity. The result is gripping, fearless, inspiring and true.”
—Madeline Miller, author of the Orange Prize winner The Song of Achilles

“Ozeki is a gifted storyteller. All Over Creation buzzes and blooms with the cross-pollination of races and subcultures, death and birth, betrayal and reconciliation, comedy and tragedy.”
—Los Angeles Time Book Review

“Sophisticated . . . a nice blend of humor and strangely affecting optimism. Ozeki has written a book where dread and hope coexist. Neither is given short shrift or magicked away.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Ozeki joins the constellation of such environmentally aware writers as Barbara Kingsolver, Annie Proulx, and Margaret Atwood, bringing her own shrewd and playful humor, luscious sexiness, and kinetic pizzazz to the table, as well her keen interest in the interface between food, family, science, and corporate greed and the dynamics of spin. . . . Moving neatly between the intimate and the environmental, the familial and the global, Ozeki hones each vivid description, witty conversation and surprising occurrence to illuminate the complex dichotomies between love and responsibility, nature and culture, traditional and corporate agriculture, traditional and corporate agriculture, fact and fabrication.”
—Chicago Tribune

“Ruth Ozeki is bent on taking the novel into corners of American culture no one else has thought to look—but where she finds us in all our technological weirdness. With a combination of humor and pathos that is all her own, Ozeki brings the American pastoral forward into the age of agribusiness and genetic engineering. The result is a smart compelling novel about a world we don’t realize we live in.”
—Michael Pollan

All Over Creation opens wider with every plot twist as it moves from tenderness to comedy to sobering truth and the world in the eye of one family’s storm. This is Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang updated by thirty years, with modern environmental challenges on the map and women in the front seat, driving the story. Hooray—Ozeki rides again.”
—Barbara Kingsolver

“Ozeki deftly and sensitively folds the variegated topics together, whipping up a savory treat.”
—Entertainment Weekly

“This winning novel . . . is a feast of humor and wisdom about family and friendship.”
—Glamour

“Bewitching . . . Ozeki’story splices a bit of Edward Abbey into an Anne Tyler plot. The fruits of this mix are definitely worth tasting.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A feast for mind and heart.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 

Meet the Author

Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. She is the award-winning author of three novels, My Year of Meats, All Over Creation, and A Tale for the Time Being, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her critically acclaimed independent films, including Halving the Bones, have been screened at Sundance and aired on PBS. She is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City.

Visit www.ruthozeki.com and follow @ozekiland on Twitter.

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All Over Creation 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Idk
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GtzLstNRding More than 1 year ago
When I began reading this book I wasn't sure if I would really enjoy it or not. As I got deeper into the story, it evolved into an emotional journey from a young girl and her severed relationship with her parents to one of reconciliation and forgivness. It also takes you through the emotional turmoil she went through while trying to reconnect and after she reconnected with them and the heartbreak of dealing with 2 very ill parents. I have to say if you don't find the book interesting when you first start to stick with it because it is quite a journey this young girl who becomes a women and single mother goes through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. I couldn't put it down! Agriculture plays an important role in this story, as well as serving as a metaphor. From seed to blossom to fruit to harvest to death and rebirth...we see it literally in the potato fields of Idaho. We see it played out in the lives of the Fuller family (and others) as well. The scientific research is wonderful and I learned a great deal. Ozeki raises important issues and questions and, thankfully, refrains from giving simplistic answers. What gripped me the most about this novel, however, were the myriand human relationships: Yumi returning home to her dying father after 25 years, her relationship to her own children, her friendship with Cass, Cass' relationship with her husband Will after numerous miscarriages... I was also impressed by the way Ozeki deals with cultural change and adaption. I never thought I'd see a book in which a fundamentalist Christian and a radical environmentalist truly befriend and learn from each other. It was refreshing. Even rural Idaho is subject to cultural and global influences it must learn to accomodate. Even rural Idaho has something to teach the rest of us.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this book from the first page. Rarely does that happen. Great handling of character development since there were so many of them. A lot of inter-twining story lines here guide Ozeki's characters to come together in the name of healthy and nutritious food. Ozeki has a great sense of sentimentality while using her tilted humor to tell the story. She does so well with pairing a bunch of societal clashes- East versus West ethnicity, old versus new generations, traditional versus alternative lifestyles and even organic versus biotechnology. Throw in an RV running on 'used french-fry oil' and you've got one of the best books I've read in a long time. Can't wait to see more from this author!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A beautifully done novel. Touching, but not sentimental. Poetic, but not sappy. Do yourself and favor and pick this one up.