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Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: Condition: Very good condition., Very good condition dust jacket. Clean - No marks of any kind. / Binding: / Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons / Pub. Date: 2001; c2001 Attributes: 373 p. 24 cm. / Stock#: Z992187997 () * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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American Fuji: A Novel Hardcover – March 19, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Since the late 1970s, young Americans have made their way to Japan to teach English, pay off student loans, and generally have a good time. A happy byproduct of this exodus has been the American-in-Japan novel. The comic possibilities of the form are obvious: bumbling foreigner tries to learn the customs of the inscrutable East. In American Fuji, first-time novelist Sara Backer hits all the comic notes, but takes the time to examine the very real allure of living in another culture.

Gaby Stanton, fired from her job as a university professor in provincial Shizuoka, has a gig selling fantasy funerals to the dying Japanese rich. Her job puts her in the path of Alexander Thorn, a middle-aged American who has just arrived in Japan determined to decipher the mystery surrounding the death of his son, an exchange student. The perspective of the novel shifts back and forth between these two characters as Gaby and Alexander stumble on a yakuza ring, unearth medical secrets, and sprout romantic feelings for each other. The two gradually develop a Hepburn-Tracy-style combative relationship. Still, Backer's sympathies clearly lie with Gaby, a thirtysomething woman with health problems who relishes her automatic outsider status in Japan. If everything she does is strange to her host culture, then her illness doesn't matter. But the introduction of Alexander is a wise move, allowing Backer to show us Japan through the perpetually startled eyes of a newcomer.

While the writing sometimes falls short of grace, Backer has an infallible sense of the kind of detail that brings Japan alive. She has no qualms about taking a page to explain how, say, Japanese banking works, and her confidence in her material makes the novel fly. The book is given surprising depth by the two main characters. Both are discontented with their lot, and neither is at all traditionally appealing. (Of Alexander, Backer writes, "He had the face of a man who could win the election, but not this year.") By giving us such warty characters in such an oddball setting, Backer has fashioned a novel with some real staying power. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

"Sometimes, one must accept what has happened without understanding it." Poet and short story writer Backer's highly entertaining, seriocomic debut novel explores this intrinsic Japanese philosophy from a unique perspective--that of a single American woman living and working in Japan. The concept of blind acceptance, difficult for any American to understand, is especially frustrating for Gabriela "Gaby" Stanton, 36, fired from her beloved teaching job at Shizuyama University for mysterious reasons. Gaby now works for Mr. Eguchi of Gone with the Wind, a company that sells fantasy funerals, including burial on the moon. Middle-aged Alex Thorn is also a victim of the collision of East/West culture. Alex has come to Japan seeking answers concerning the death of his 20-year-old son, Cody, an exchange student attending the university where Gaby taught. Cody died in a motorcycle accident, and his heart was removed for a transplant. But Cody had adopted a Buddhist philosophy that strictly prohibits organ donation. Alex's search for the details of his son's death lead him to Gaby, since Gone With the Wind shipped Cody's body home to America. Backer adeptly evokes her characters' emotional dislocation as Gaby and Alex negotiate a country where natives often can't read their own language and group needs supersede those of the individual. (Mar. 19)Forecast: The novel's ending should satisfy an American readership's need for closure, but its slow unfolding may defy their accustomed sense of pacing. Patience, reader-san, "There is much to be learned from following a path." If booksellers emphasize the novel's quality (and point out that Backer was the first American and the first woman to serve as visiting professor of English at Japan's Shizuoka University, and that an early draft of American Fuji was named a finalist in the James Jones First Novel competition), success should ensue. Rights sold in the Netherlands and France.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 373 pages
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons; 1st edition (March 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399146911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399146916
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,901,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Sara Backer's American Fuji is a book that you will not be able to put down from the first word to the last word. The adventures of Gaby and Alex are not only absorbing and exotic, they are a unique glimpse into the Japan that IS Japan. Having lived in Japan for eight years, I am pleased to say that Backer's ability not only to choose the right detail but to choose the most interesting, astonishing, revealing, and accurate detail is unparalleled. From Gaby's unusual occupation to the odd tension of dining in a foreign country as everyone watches your every move, every scene presents the atmosphere of Japan as I remember it, but whether you've been to Japan or not, you will have been there once you read this book. The story is compelling, the characters are fascinating, and the imagination that produced this work is engaging, remarkable, and wild--in the finest sense of the word. After a debut like this, I will buy every book Backer ever publishes. Buy it for yourself and for your friend who teaches English in Japan.
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Format: Paperback
I was born and raised as a Japanese in Japan and now live in the US. This book is hilarious. The author knows the subtle nuance of Japanese language, people, and culture, by reading this book I just laugh so hard for its accuracy and at the same time I'm so embarrased. One of the reader in this section had a negative feedback saying the author had a bad experience in Japan. I disagree. With so many bizzare Japanese ways (thinking, talking, behaving, and believing, etc.) make you want to question how in the world this society indeed operates such a high-tech country, but at the same time this bizzare society is too cracking up to the point that is beyond any hope for changes, it's also so funny and it makes you appreciate that you don't live there unless, of course, you are there for whatever the reason.
Very well researched, studied, and understood by the author. Believe me, it's not easy to grasp this society in such a short time as much as she did.
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Format: Hardcover
It's hard to believe this is Backer's first novelization.
Since I have quite an interest in Japanese culture and language, I found the premise of American Fuji very attractive -- something unusual since my normal fare is that of fantasy and sci-fi. Backer has managed to weave mystery and cultural fish-out-of-water storylines together with a slight dash of romance to make an absolutely magical (and addictive) book that doesn't skimp on action. I was very impressed at how all the pieces that she set up fell into place in the last 1/3 of the book and equally impressed with how three-dimensional the characters -- all the characters -- were. The cultural differences are dealt with, the language accurate...it's simply a wonderful book for anyone of any age, background or sex. Entertaining in the highest degree.
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Format: Hardcover
Sara Backer has created an intricate plot that revolves around the death of an American student while studying abroad in Japan. His father travels to a small Japanese town to find out the details of his son's death. Things are revealed which do not match up and the father is thrown into an investigation to discover the facts surrounding this death. The problems begin to mount when an American woman is pulled into the middle of the investigation against her better judgement. The problems become even larger when the cultural differences come into play.
A difference in attitudes towards death, towards open expression of emotion and individualism are so wide apart as to appear insurmountable. The difference in the style of daily living, the cuisine and even the written language pose their own problems.
Sara Backer bases the novel on her experiences while she was a visiting professor at Shizuoka University. The cultural differences are handled with both seriousness and humor to make for an interesting look at life as a foreigner in small town Japan.
American Fuji is also the story of a search for love, acceptance and understanding and what people are willing to trade to gain a firmer footing in these emotional arenas.
I found the description of Mount Fuji wonderfully accurate, including the climb. The thoughts that arise are some of the same thoughts I had when I climbed it. It was both majestic and spiritual just as she writes, it was also a lot more difficult than it looked to be.
This was a great story told by a very talented author about love, life and a cultural gap that can not always be bridged.
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Format: Paperback
After reading this book, and the reviews that others have mentioned here, I felt I must put my own opinion down. As a gaijin who spent 5 years in Japan, I can relate with almost all of the experiences of Gaby Stanton.
This book hit it all right on the mark. Men experience a different Japan than women do. I understand completely how Gaby felt that her "outsider" status with the rest of her life made living with her disease somehow easier.
The one thing the author didn't portray very well was the truely second class status women have in Japan. Perhaps because it would then seem over the top to those that haven't experienced it.
This book is Japan - as it is now, in the eyes of a long time female outsider looking at it. It really tells it like it is - and manages to tell a good story while doing it.
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