If You Follow Me

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 is one of the most delightful books I have ever read. I found it on the shelf at the library and could hardly put it down. Malena Watrous weaves a tale that we can all relate to. I was extremely touched by Marina’s journey after the death of her father, and her attempts to deal with her grief.

Divine messages come from the most unlikely of places. I often find that when I am dealing with something particularly trying, I happen upon a book that leaves me speechless and helps me to deal with whatever I am going through. If You Follow Me was one such book.

This past February, my father died. I am much too young to have lost my father. Although Marina lost her father to suicide, the death of one’s parent is still traumatic . . . especially since I only had three years to get to know my father. In many ways, Marina’s journey was my own. I am still dealing with the grief, and there are times when I break down.

I know my dad is here, watching out for me. In If You Follow Me, Marina sees her father in the strangest of places:

I don’t know how long I’ve been staring at the swarm of blue and white dots on the TV screen before they rearrange themselves into my father’s face, only that I’m not surprised when it happens. It’s like I’ve been waiting for this. “How did you find me?” I whisper, and the image flickers, disappears, then reappears.

Malena Watrous writes with a beautiful simplicity. Her writing found its way easily into my heart, reminding me of my own struggles. It’s funny how things come to us when we need them the most. In this case, it was this book. As a fiction writer, I know that I often wonder if anyone really “gets” anything meaningful out of my books. The thing is, you never really know when the words you write will be the words that someone else needs to hear. Thank you, Malena, for writing such a lovely book.

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