Title: If You Follow Me
Author: Malena Watrous
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Year Published: 2010
Summary (from goodreads):
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.
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.
First of all, I must thank Amanda from The Zen Leaf for writing such an amazing review that made me go get the book from the library that same Day. Go read her review, because she does it much better than I do.
I absolutely adored reading this book. In the beginning, I made myself read slowly and take my time so I could get as much out of the Japanese culture as I could. In the past two days, I couldn’t keep reading at the slower pace, so I finished the last 250 pages in two days.
There were so many reason to love this book, but a big one is that it is about an age that is often ignored in literature because people think it can’t sell. Marina is 22, just out of college and trying something completely new to her. It is so refreshing to see a young women in a book. I am 23 and rarely see people my age or even close to my situation in the books I read. Both she and Carolyn were realistic and showed the complexities of women in their early 20s and just out of college. It is a strange and confusing time and I loved that it tok place out of New York City and romance.
If you have any interest in Japanese culture, you should read this book. I am always trying to find novels that can teach me about different perspectives and world views. I love that this took place in a small town in Japan instead of a city, and showed what life was like there. There were very complicated rules about garbage and I think I would have as much trouble and they did. I don’t want to discuss what aspects of the culture that I really loved because I want you to be able to read about it, but they included sex ed, splitting classes and jobs based on gender (and the look on education in general), and the town’s matchmaker. Before reading this, i never had much interest in visiting Japan, but I think it would be a great cultural experience!
The other aspect of the book that made me love it so much was Carolyn and Marina’s relationship. They are both bisexual, but it is just part of who they are. They don’t have problems in their relationship because of their sexuality, they have problems in their relationship because they are two people with different takes on the world and relationships. I am so happy to see books with gay characters that aren’t about the characters being gay. It was a great portrayal of a relationship and gender did not make a difference.
I could go on for pages about all of the things I liked about this book and how it impacted me. I didn’t even talk about Marina’s father and his depression then suicide, which is a large part of the book and was a fantastic example of how we all deal with grief differently. Or how I loved all of the minor characters and what they brought to the story. Or about six other things I could talk about.
I hope I have given you enough to get you at least a little interested.
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