In the middle of the United States things are a bit different than on either coast. The middle of the States, while being tornado alley, is also home to much of our food production, including cattle, corn, and wheat. In this story Summer belongs to a wheat harvesting family, not a wheat farming family, but a wheat harvesting family. Summer’s family is also Japanese.
At the beginning of the book we find that it has been a year of bad luck. Summer got a case of malaria, which is quite rare int he United States. She was sick for the longest time. Her parents have gone back to Japan to take care of her great-grandparents while they die. Summer and her brother Jaz are left with their grandparents.
Jaz does not have any friends. As the story progresses it’s evident that something is wrong with Jaz. The way he acts sounds an awfully lot like autism. They hold a party for Jaz, but no one comes. Soon it is harvest time. Jichan, Summer’s grandfather, will drive a combine to harvest wheat and Obachan, her grandmother, will be the cook for the harvesters.
The process is hard on both grandparents. Obachan has an old back injury that gives her much pain. Jichan becomes ill part of the way through harvest. They both push forward though because they know they need the money, while arguing all the time. Summer and Jaz are there along with their grandparents. They stay in an RV on site. Summer’s dog kills some chickens when she isn’t paying attention. Her grandparents try to teach her about being a good person. Sometimes Summer listens sometimes she doesn’t. Meanwhile Jaz knows he is different and asks his sister why people don’t like him.
At one point Summer must drive a combine herself to get the wheat harvested in time. She learns that her luck can change.
What I liked
There is a bit of a culture clash in this story and it’s an interesting one. The Japanese culture meets the middle-America harvesting and farming culture. If you go to Japan, out of the cities, you will find that many Japanese people farm or garden. Most people in the more rural areas have some sort of garden especially in Okinawa. Farming and growing things is a way of life for Japanese people, but it’s not quite on such a grand scale as the farms in the middle of America. In Okinawa, everyone has their little patch of land, or pots, where they grow the things they want to grow. It’s not enough to sustain an entire family, but it helps. In the middle of America, one farm sustains thousands of people.
So in the end, this whole thing may be familiar to Summer’s family, but only in a certain manner. They’ve learned how to adapt to the world they live in now.
Summer tries to be good, but she’s still just a kid. There are lots of things she still has to figure out and by the end of the book she knows this is true. She knows she has a lot of growing up to do, but she’ll eventually figure out where she is supposed to be in life and what she’s about. Let me tell you something, it’s quite rare that a teenager figures out that they’re not quite who they’re supposed to be yet as a teenager. Teenagers think they know everything and that they’ll never change their attitudes or ideas. Summer is a rare student who learns that the Summer she is now isn’t the Summer she’s going to end up as.
What I didn’t like
This book contained an awfully lot about wheat. First of all, I can’t eat wheat. Second of all, due to certain aspects of my upbringing I know way more about wheat than I should, really. I know how to store it. I know how to grind it. I know how to make cereal out of it. I know that people make things like “wheatballs” out of it; it’s like meatballs, but with 100% more gluten. What I’m trying to say is that I’m wheated out. I don’t want to read about wheat. I have seriously heard about enough wheat in my life. In fact, I have wheat in my house, not that I can eat it, but I have some. You never know when the apocalypse is going to happen and you’re going to have to spend the rest of your living life being sick to the stomach because the only thing you have to eat is red winter wheat. I guess it’s survival of the fittest. All the people with wheat allergies and celiac disease will die off during the apocalypse and it will leave a new breed of people who survive solely on red winter wheat. They’ll graze on it like cows. They’ll be called “the wheat people.”
I’ve gotten a bit off topic, but overall, I’m tired of hearing about wheat. Wheat can go fly a kite, especially the Monsanto stuff.
Oh and, DEET, Summer uses it all the time. DO NOT PUT DEET ON YOUR SKIN. Go for more natural remedies. That stuff is bad news. Get yourself some citronella oil from the health food store and mix it with a carrier oil, then spray that on yourself for insect repellant. Don’t put nasty Monsanto or other similarly big agri/pharma derived chemicals on your skin.
I like Summer. She’s a good kid. I hope she goes far in life and I hope Jaz figures out where his place is as well.
Would you eat wheatballs instead of meatballs?
If you could not eat wheat and the apocalypse happened, what measures would you take to ensure your survival in a world of preppers who stored up tons of red winter wheat?
combines, cynthia kadohata, driving a combine, farming wheat, grandparents, harvesting wheat, japan, japanese americans, jaz, jichan, malaria, obachan, summer, the thing about luck, The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, wheat
Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Kadohata-Cynthia, Romantic Fiction, Social Commentary, Young Adult