Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book twenty-four: If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous

As part of my preparation for a trip to Japan, I picked up several novels that looked to Japan for inspiration.  If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous was one of these books.  I also chose this book because it's Watrous's debut novel.  And I love reading first-time novelists.

If You Follow Me is the story of 22-year-old Marina who moves to Japan to teach English.  She and her girlfriend are both assigned to teach in a small rural town. Like any move to a strange place, the initial experience is less than fun. From the baffling rules for taking out the trash, to figuring out how to manage being a women in a male dominated culture, Marina struggles to fit in.  Her supervisor, Miyoshi tries to help by writing her letters with helpful suggestions.  But most of his notes come off critically harsh. All this fuss puts a strain on Marina's relationship with Carolyn.  So even her significant other seems to be distant.

But as the story progresses, Marina seems to settle in.  And while she continues to make culturally insensitive mistakes, she gets better at managing the situations.

If You Follow Me is solid first novel.  It's cast of quirky characters, entertaining situations, and culture-clashing humor make for a book that any world traveler would enjoy.

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