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HarperCollins Publishers (AU)
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If You Follow Me: A Novel Kindle Edition
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"A smart, comic first novel."--New York Times Book Review
"If You Follow Me is the kind of book you finish and then clutch to your heart as you run around telling everyone you know that they have to read it. Watrous has written a book of great genuine warmth, startling honesty, and remarkable power."--Thisbe Nissen, author of Osprey Island
"[C]onfident and heartfelt, a finely sketched reminder of the ways in which new loves are like new countries....If You Follow Me will charm all readers who have ever fumbled, offended, raged, and had their hearts broken in a foreign land."--San Francisco magazine
"Graceful, smart, and filled with wonder, If You Follow Me is a heartfelt delight from beginning to end."--Michelle Richmond, bestselling author of The Year of Fog
"Her writing is direct and conversational. And she is able to deliver an excruciating portrayal of Marina's internal struggles."--Eugene Register-Guard
"I love, love, love IF YOU FOLLOW ME. It's fearlessly honest, occasionally heartbreaking, and extremely funny, and I can't recommend it highly enough."--Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of PREP and AMERICAN WIFE
"In this beautiful novel, what is most "foreign" to Marina turns out to be her complex relationships with those she thought she knew best. Malena Watrous's writing is sharp-edged and generous, tragic and true. I would follow her anywhere."--Katharine Noel, author of Halfway House
"This tragicomic debut novel spunky, feminist and perpetually wrong-footed college grad as she spends four seasons in rural Japan escaping the memory of her father's suicide."--Ms. magazine --This text refers to the paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
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.--This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B00395ZZ4E
- Publisher : HarperCollins e-books (20 February 2010)
- Language : English
- File size : 673 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 356 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 1,278,904 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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The trouble is that Watrous doesn't seem to have decided on the sort of novel she wants to write - whether 'If You Follow Me' is comic or serious, whether it's about Marina coming to terms with her bereavement, about her relationship with Carolyn or about day to day life in small-town Japan. I wasn't surprised to learn that this novel was based on the author's own experiences (in the same town described here I believe) - large sections read almost as though they were copied from a diary, and are focussed on day to day events and domestic dramas - a trip to learn 'ikebana' (Japanese flower-arranging), trips to the supermarket, an unsuccessful dinner with a fellow-teacher, endless feuds with the neighbours and their overweight son, various 'set pieces' such as a speech by local dignitaries and a sumo wrestling competition that goes horribly wrong. While there's nothing wrong with this, it all feels a bit flat, and the characters - other than Hiroshi - are not very clearly defined, and tend to merge into a blend of ultra-feminine, attractive and quiet women and slightly authoritarian or difficult men. The humour I didn't find funny at all on the whole (other than some of Hiroshi's ultra-courteous letters), particularly the death of the cat.
As for the Carolyn and bereavement aspects of the plot, I felt they got pushed to one side by the sheer number of events and descriptions of small-town life in Japan that the author was trying to cram into her book. I had little idea at the start what the relationship with Carolyn meant to Marina, and still less at the end, by which time Carolyn had pretty well faded from the book. The bereavement theme seemed to get picked up and dropped rather randomly, and it was still unclear at the end exactly why Marina's father had become mentally ill and what her relationship was with him (at one stage they seemed close, at another he became something of a monster, smashing a record just because she'd listened to it). Her relationship with her mother also remained unclear. Nor really did I feel sure what Marina felt for Hiro - whether she actually did love him, or if he was just another way to escape her grief and uncertainty about what to do with her life.
In the end, I think the author raised a lot of potentially serious and thought-provoking themes, but then failed to tackle any of them because she was so determined to write a comic novel. This unfortunately meant that the humour got monotonous, and that though there were some lovely scenes - some of Marina's conversations with Hiro, some descriptions of places they visited - neither the scenario nor the characters were really interesting enough to keep me involved. I wonder in the end whether the author might have been better off writing a memoir of her time in Japan, and trying a more imaginative and less life-experience based novel? Not sure this is someone I'll keep reading, in any case.
Malena Watrous has done a wonderful job of weaving in the Japanese culture and language without once being preachy or having it sound like an exposition. And she writes about the idiosyncrasies of the culture and the characters without coming off as cocky or derogatory. I particularly appreciated that each chapter started with a japanese word that lead us through the chapter. I had no idea till I read the anglification of Japanese words till I read this lovely book.