May 2010 Indie Next List
“Marina and her partner learn that Japan is a land of rules, and following rules is difficult for two American women used to the freedom of New York and San Francisco. Gomi, the Japanese word for garbage law, symbolizes the challenges of teaching in this small town on the Noto Peninsula, where the garbage is never put out in the right format or on the right day. Since the two women can't live their lives in a traditional Japanese way, they find themselves at odds with villagers and students,and they struggle to conform while at the same time retaining their individuality. This is a love story of two people and a country and culture--one in which the protagonists must learn to accept not only Japan's past but their own.”
— Betsy Burton, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT
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.
About the Author
Malena Watrous's short fiction has appeared in Story Quarterly, Glimmer Train, Triquarterly, The Massachusetts Review, and Kyoto Journal. The winner of the Michener-Copernicus Award, she lives in San Francisco.
“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
“[A] deft, funny, and emotionally acute first novel...Watrous’s book crackles with atmospheric detail and sharp dialogue, and tells a vivid story of an American confronting grief and self-knowledge in an unfamiliar place.”
“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
“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
“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
“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.”
“[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
“A smart, comic first novel.”
-New York Times Book Review
“Her writing is direct and conversational. And she is able to deliver an excruciating portrayal of Marina’s internal struggles.”