This Friday and every Friday for the next several months I'll be featuring a book in the Harper Perennial Imprint. Some were recently published, some will be released later this year, all are worth a closer look.
I can thank my friends in the book blog community for alerting me to Malena Watrous's If You Follow Me. Although it is a novel, the story is informed by the author's personal experiences in Japan.
Here's the summary:
Hoping to outpace her grief in the wake of her father's suicide, Marina has come to the small, rural Japanese town of Shika to teach English for a year. But in Japan, as she soon discovers, you can never really throw away your past . . . or anything else, for that matter.Probably because my graduate research gave me the opportunity to live (however briefly) in two countries not my own, I have always liked books that center on people adjusting to life in a foreign culture. Visiting a community as a tourist is one thing, but learning how to live there—setting up bank accounts, mastering the social customs, and figuring out the laws—is a completely different experience.
If You Follow Me is at once a fish-out-of-water tale, a dark comedy of manners, and a strange kind of love story. Alive with vibrant and unforgettable characters—from an ambitious town matchmaker to a high school student-cum-rap artist wannabe with an addiction to self-tanning lotion—it guides readers over cultural bridges even as it celebrates the awkward, unlikely triumph of the human spirit.
As many of you know, Amy from My Friend Amy lived in Japan for a while, and when I read her review, I was convinced that If You Follow Me was something I wanted to read. She wrote: "I have to give kudos to Watrous for capturing the American in Japan experience very well. . . . I felt so much of the book was authentic . . . from Marina's frustration with her repetitive conversations about weather and all of the language used."
Several other reviews caught my attention as well. For example, Kristen from BookNAround noted: "More than the story of a young woman traveling part way around the world to find herself amidst a completely different culture, this plumbs the depths of love, life, and community." And Carrie from Books and Movies said: "While I had a mixed reaction to the main character, I did enjoy Ms. Watrous’s writing style, and she did a wonderful job of describing the characters and places that Marina encounters. I will definitely be looking forward to more of her work."
For more about Malena Watrous, visit her blog. In the following video, Watrous talks about her novel:
This book was featured as part of my Spotlight on the Harper Perennial imprint. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. You might also want to visit the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.