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If You Follow Me: A Novel by [Watrous, Malena]
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If You Follow Me: A Novel Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Length: 356 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Watrous's proficient debut, 22-year-old Marina and her girlfriend Carolyn are new residents in a quirky Japanese town where they teach English while learning their own lessons about gomi, or garbage disposal. Aside from the local obsession with trash, living in smalltown Shika is a welcome respite for Marina, who grapples with her father's suicide (he was indirectly responsible for her introduction to Carolyn; they met in a bereavement group), and although she hopes to move past his death during her year in Japan, he begins to feel more alive to her, as if his presence made the trip as well. Meanwhile, the peculiar absurdities of being a stranger in a strange land abound (how does one properly dispose of a refrigerator?), and though this tale of culture shock, growing up, and throwing out isn't especially distinguished from its fish-out-of-water peers, it does the trick as a diversion. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Poor Marina. Her job as an English teacher in Japan isn’t exactly what she expected. She’s been assigned to a remote rural region, where her she lives in a small, dingy apartment, and her students run the gamut from the quirky to the perverse. It doesn’t help matters that she and her significant other, Carolyn, who is also a teacher, are having problems. (Each realizes—too late—that the foreign surroundings and circumstances have placed too much stress on their relatively new relationship.) A well-meaning administrator named Miyoshi does his best to help Marina navigate her way through difficult days. He benefits from the relationship, too; he’s able to practice his English. Marina soon grows fond of Miyoshi. Are her feelings for him simple gratitude for his kindness or something more? Debut author Watrous, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, renders lively prose and memorable characters (there’s a macho Japanese student athlete with an Afro, bronzed skin, and bling), but the outsider theme becomes somewhat repetitive over the novel’s 300-plus pages. --Allison Block

Product Details

  • File Size: 977 KB
  • Print Length: 356 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books (February 20, 2010)
  • Publication Date: March 9, 2010
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00395ZZ4E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,888 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Great literature transcends its characters and plot and brings greater understanding and critical thought, and If You Follow Me is that kind of great literature. It's mostly the story of Marina, who is spending her first year out of college teaching college in rural Japan. She's still dealing with her father's suicide, and her girlfriend, Carolyn, is also teaching in Japan. They're the only foreigners in a small, rural town with a nuclear power plant. They live in the only apartment available for two people.

Watrous did an amazing job of translating the experience of teaching in rural Japan to the reader. The novel opens with the first of what will be many letters informing Marina of her violations of gomi law. The Japanese have a complex system of recycling, burning and disposing of their trash on different days, in different places and with different means. Instantly, I was as dumbfounded and embarrassed as Marina was for her inevitable and unintentional rudeness and violation of law. Perhaps the greatest cultural insults are the ones we commit when we don't even think to ask, such as how to sort our garbage.

Although the novel is told from Marina's point of view, it's brilliance is in the reader's ability to see the story not only through Marina's eyes, but also from the perspectives of the other characters, major and minor, and to truly understand each subtle moment from multiple sides. Many authors use multiple narrators to introduce readers to other points of view, but Watrous weaves language barriers, cultural misunderstanding and the human emotions beautifully into a coherent whole, and Marina still has a strong enough presence to feel like a friend from the novel's first pages.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In IF YOU FOLLOW ME, Watrous writes about people we all know; hers is a story of self discovery in which the reader shares. In many outsider novels, there is the 'other' and then there is the 'known.' In FOLLOW, there is no 'other.'

Though Watrous had me laughing so hard I dropped my book on several occasions, it was often a bittersweet kind of laughter - not "ha, ha, ha." Bittersweet because the writing is so honest. The character of the Japanese supervisor and English teacher is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. His "Japlish" letters are unconventional to say the least, but his affection for his students and for Marina in particular made me love him all the more. You'll meet other Japanese characters in FOLLOW that will seem more familiar than foreign - in particular a first grade boy whose relationship with his autistic brother is complicated but oh so human.

I ordered this book from Amazon this week and finished it almost overnight. I could not attend to anything else. It's that kind of story. Read it. You won't regret it.
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Format: Paperback
I couldn't put this book down!

From the novel's very first letter detailing Miss Marina's culturally improper trash habits to its moving ending with the heroine alone by the sea, If You Follow Me takes the traditional novel of manners and turns it on its head. In many ways, Watrous' writing reminded me of a cross between Jane Austen and Edith Wharton: coincidence, misunderstandings, romance, and disguises abound. The dialogue is sharp and incredibly funny, and the characters are so real. And yet lurking beneath this well-executed, crowd-pleasing structure is a tremendous personal loss that gives the novel its depth, and puts Marina in the company of Countess Olenska and other literary heroines who face down tragedy.

I loved how recycling became a strangely apt metaphor for grief in the book, as Marina learns which things from the past she must throw away, and what will be incorporated into her new life. It's part of Watrous' noteworthy talent that she can take a mundane part of contemporary existence and illuminate it until it reflects back something we didn't know about ourselves. Looking forward to more by this author.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was truly impressed by this book. The plot is simple, two American girls with ample emotional baggage set out to teach English in Japan. That they are lovers in a new relationship complicates things as they find themselves in a remote village in Japan that has a mind bending structure for trash sorting and disposal. Here not only do they discover each other , but are able to free themselves of the demons from the past that are holding them back. Here they also find new relationships and discover the true meaning of love and loss.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting to a point, I've also taught in Japan, many of the experiences were similar. There just wasn't enough interest to make a book out of this. Maybe a short-ish story. There are better books concerning life in Japan. Blue Eyed Salaryman for example.
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