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If You Follow Me

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  869 Ratings  ·  156 Reviews
“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

“Graceful, smart, and filled with wonder, If You Follow Me is a heartfelt delight from beginning to end.” — Michelle Richmond, bestselling auth
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Harper Perennial (first published February 20th 2010)
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Kater Cheek
Dec 15, 2009 Kater Cheek rated it it was amazing
Would I have adored this book so much if I hadn't been an English teacher in Japan myself? I don't know. All I can say is that it hooked me from the first letter, in which Marina's supervisor chides her for not following _gomi_ (garbage) law. Suddenly I could remember myself trying to figure out if my garbage was -moeru- (burnable) or not, and where to put it, and all the million other ways a foreigner could make mistakes in Japan.

While this book is set in Japan, it's not just about Japan. Nor i
Sep 24, 2010 Leah rated it it was ok
Officially, Marina goes to rural Japan to teach English for a year. Unofficially, she goes to rural Japan because she doesn’t really know what else to do with herself; she’s just finished college, her father has committed suicide, and when her new girlfriend, Carolyn, decides to go, Marina wants to go too. It’s an escape for her, an identity moratorium in a place where she hopes to leave the bad things behind and move on with her life.

Of course, with her limited Japanese, even basic conversation
Nov 15, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Oh man, I don't know. I wanted to like this story of a young woman coming to teaching English in Japan while struggling with her reactions to her father's suicide, and it's clear Watrous has lived in Japan and has a keen eye for the absurd or interesting detail (the plastic high school slippers, the sweltering teacher's rooms). But having lived here for more than a decade, I reacted to a lot of this book the way one might react to a horror movie in which the cute young teen suggests they all spl ...more
Apr 27, 2010 Lori rated it really liked it
ARC from publisher

Many thanks to Harper Perennial for allowing me the opportunity to review Malena Watrous's "If You Follow Me".

This was my first adult woman lit novel in a very long time. It's a genre I tend to overlook nowadays - though not because I dislike it.

When I first found myself craving novels again, back in my early twenties, "Chick Lit" was all I read. I tore the bookshelves at Border's apart, searching for the next Anna Maxted, Sophie Kinsella, and Helen Fielding. They were books wi
ETA: Okay, nevermind about the never-to-finish categorization. I ended up reading the book in a day due to my work computer getting whacked with issues one after another. The writing is very good, and I was able to enjoy most of the book quite a bit once I started skipping over the lesbian/threesome/pot-smoking/depressed-daddy-flashbacks. I especially enjoyed reading the budding romance between the protagonist and her Japanese supervisor, Miyoshi. The romance was actually very similar to the one ...more
Jan 12, 2016 Saiokuo rated it really liked it
When a friend told me about this book it seemed eerie; what’re the odds someone would write a book about a girl whose father commits suicide her senior year of college and she joins the JET program to teach in Japan to avoid having to face impending future decisions? Hell, the main character even got placed in a rural town not too far from me. So yeah, I was pretty intrigued by the book that may or may not be my own biography… Ok, I’ll try not to get too carried away. There were plenty of differ ...more
Mar 09, 2010 ModCloth rated it liked it
Attempting to flee her grief after her father’s suicide, 22-year-old Marina leaves bustling New York for the small, quirky town of Shika, Japan. Despite submerging herself in a new culture, a burgeoning career as an English language teacher, and within various complicated relationships both personally and professionally, Marina finds she can’t avoid her past — no matter how ridiculous the present may get.

The more Marina attempts to fit into her new community with Carolyn, the girlfriend she met
Jun 11, 2011 Jenny rated it really liked it
"I am kind of so sorry."
"You have committed a rude."

The use of the above accented English is just one way in which Malena Watrous, debut author of If You Follow Me, transports her readers to Japan where 22-year-old Marina has moved with her girlfriend, Carolyn, to teach for a year. Carolyn and Marina meet each other at a grief support group after Marina's father committs suicide. They are disappointed to find they have been assigned to schools in the Japanese countryside rather than in the city
Mar 26, 2010 Becca rated it really liked it
The first thing I noticed about this book was how beautiful it was. But it is a truly gorgeous book -- matte spring green cover, a women in mosiacs, and it smelled exactly like a treasured, well-made & well-loved book does. The matte cover is a pleasure to hold and touch.

Yes, it's amazingly petty, but the multisensory experience was apropos for a book that is so immersive. Watrous' detailed characters, evocative prose & well-researched setting left the mark of a truly good book -- when
Jennifer Mcgown
Jan 19, 2013 Jennifer Mcgown rated it liked it
I thought that this is a great book to read if you are thinking of going to Japan and especially if you are thinking about living there. It is about two women who go to Japan to teach English to Japanese students. Mariana is going to escape the pain and grief of her father's death and Carolynis going because it was her idea in the first place. Mariana does not speak or read Japanese, so it is a real culture shock when she and Carolyn are placed in rural Japan in small town. Mariana is placed in ...more
Mar 24, 2010 Ti rated it liked it
Shelves: books-sent-to-me
The Short of It:

Reading If You Follow Me, is like taking a cool sip of water on a hot summer’s day. It’s refreshing and bold and filled with vivid, colorful characters.

The Rest of It:

I was rather surprised by this one. I expected it to be a “fish out of water” story, and to a degree, it is but there’s much more to it than you would expect. It’s light and airy in one sense, but it deals with some heavier themes and Watrous manages to take all of these elements and roll them into a nice little pac
Mar 19, 2010 Stephanie rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this because it was written by a friend of a friend of mine. But I didn't connect with the protagonist (aka the author), who taught English at the local vocational school in a remote Japanese town right out of college. There's lots of drama (how can there not be when you're in your early 20s!), misunderstandings (Japanese/American culture clash) and introspection (letting go of a tragedy). The theme of each chapter is a Japanese vocubulary lesson -- slightly clever, but d ...more
Jun 20, 2015 Kyra rated it really liked it
There was something so quietly moving about this book. I quite enjoyed it.
Jul 28, 2014 Annie rated it liked it
I picked this book up mostly for its gorgeous cover and partly for its vaguely interesting synopsis. Fortunately, I enjoyed both! Marlena Watour's novel is about a freshly minted college grad named Marina and her first year as an English teacher in Japan. Marina chooses to become an exchange teacher for two main reasons: she wants to follow her girlfriend Carolyn and get away from her father's recent suicide.

Now, I wanted to mention that a central point in this novel is "gomi" (garbage in Japan
Amy Warrick
May 23, 2014 Amy Warrick rated it it was ok

I think I'd have liked this more had I not lived in Japan for six years. There were things that weren't quite right; of course, everybody's experience is different, so okay, your school peeps talked to you differently than my school peeps, so maybe also in your school, everybody wore the horrendous plastic slippers instead of changing to their own personal 'indoor' shoes as they did at mine. It just was a little grating. I'm not patient enough for that.

Ms. Watrous is a talented writer and thi
Mar 29, 2010 Dora rated it it was amazing
I wish I could go back in time to a time before I read this book so I could read it for the first time again. That is how much I loved this book.

I loved everything about it. All the characters felt real to me, the writing was wonderful, the story was phenomenal. I loved the metaphor of garbage/baggage/letting go throughout the book, and especially how the author didn't bang the reader over the head with it.
Oct 29, 2010 Cindy rated it really liked it
This was a very funny and at times a very sad book about a young American girl teaching English in rural Japan. It is also a strange love story that I really did not pick up on until half way through the book! I especially liked the letters that Marina receives from her supervisor, Miyoshi, telling her of her American mistakes. I enjoyed this novel from the very beginning to the very end!
Apr 05, 2010 ☮Karen rated it really liked it
Recommended to ☮Karen by: goodreads
Thank you goodreads First Reads! This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Marina, an American in Japan teaching English in the most unusual ways, is sort of a fish out of water as she tries to assimilate to all the rules and social mores of the Japanese. At times very sad and other times it made me laugh out loud.
Lauren orso
Mar 26, 2010 Lauren orso rated it it was ok
Shelves: read2010
all 350 pages of this didn't take me a full workday.

for me, two stars on this type of book is completely forgettable, just readable enough; one star would be eat,pray,love and that sort of oprahesque drivel. this was just barely better.
Ms. Online
If You Follow Me
By Malena Watrous
Harper Perennial

This tragicomic debut novel follows a spunky, feminist and perpetually wrongfooted college grad as she spends four
seasons in rural Japan escaping the memory of her father’s suicide.
Megan Hansen
Apr 04, 2010 Megan Hansen rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-won, fiction
This is a fun, quirky fish out a water story. Reading about different Japanese customs and how Marina coped with them was very entertaining.

Christine Nguyen
Aug 27, 2016 Christine Nguyen rated it liked it
"If You Follow Me" had a storyline that was not exactly my cup of tea. There were few exciting moments that captured my attention from time to time, but however it would always return back to me being uninterested. Although I had enjoyed reading it at the time, looking back now, I don't see anything special about this novel that captivates me. The whole story centered around the main character recovering from a previous trauma, but the words on the pages never made an impact on me in that sort o ...more
Sep 08, 2012 Claire rated it it was amazing
Celeste Rousselot
Jun 06, 2016 Celeste Rousselot rated it really liked it
Take an American 22-year-old woman at loose ends after college and place her in Shika, a small village along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Her job, because she was accepted by the Japanese Ministry of Education to participate in the elite JET program, is to teach English to the children there. What you get is in part what you expect—a wild ride through cultural clashes of styles, manners, and mores. For instance, you learn about gomi, the particular ways the Japanese dispose of their recyclable ...more
Dec 21, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, travel, novel
First thoughts: a sweet, kind of strange tale that made me want to visit Japan. I liked the setting and themes and supporting characters much more than the protagonist.

Where I read: on the couch, in bed, instead of wasting time on the internet.

This story made Japan more real to me as a place that I could see myself visiting. The "wherever you go, there you are" theme struck me, and I always like to see how others interpret it. This version adds in another layer with garbage/how you dispose of th
Mar 08, 2011 May-Ling rated it really liked it
i'm probably biased since i'm part japanese and just love the culture, but this book drew me in. i loved the ride, cultural misunderstandings and all. basically, that's what 'if you follow me' is about - a young couple of women in love move to very rural japan to teach english. they keep their relationship secret, but nothing else seems to be - especially not their trash. in a way, the book could be called gomi (garbage), since the majority of their cultural misunderstandings and conflict with n ...more
Apr 26, 2012 Kay rated it really liked it
My impression of If You Follow Me was that it had a very quiet pace, yet contained so much on an emotional level. Some parts had me smiling and almost laughing, while other parts made my heart break. Marina’s journey through grief and integration to a new culture had no boring moment, while being written very realistically. The characters had depth and the culture was explained with great respect (by which I mean, a culture carefully described to foreigners without relying on common stereotypes) ...more
May 22, 2010 G rated it it was amazing
I am thrilled to announce that I’m giving away 2 copies of this book to 2 lucky winners! Trust me, you want to enter this giveaway because this book is FABULOUS.

If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous was definitely one of my favorite books to review this year. As proof, I offer up that I gave it a rare five-star rating on Goodreads. I grade hard, as I compare each book I read to my favorite novel, Pride and Prejudice. Malena Watrous has a natural affinity for storytelling; she has a sly sense of hu
Mar 18, 2011 Sterlingcindysu rated it really liked it
The setting of this book (a small town in Japan that has a nuclear facility) is the deserved focus of the novel. I started reading this before everything happened in Japan which is eerie! As with most novels in a foreign country, it took me awhile to get all the names straight of the characters, so I'm glad the author qualified them "the dentist", "the librarian", etc. Great use of non-English speakers using dialogue. The rules about gomi were making me confused! A great entry by a first-time au ...more
A lot of my enjoyment, at least initially, of this book came from identifying with the narrator's experience teaching English as a foreign language in the "countryside" of an Asian country. So much of the cultural and linguistic miscommunication rang true to me, particularly being watched constantly, people she'd never met knowing her name (or in my case it was more often my child's name), trying to speak the native language and being told, "I don't speak English" or just "No English."

Much of t
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Book Giveaway - Win a copy of If You Follow Me 1 8 May 22, 2010 11:34AM  
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Malena’s stories and essays have appeared in The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Believer, GlimmerTrain, The Massachussetts Review,, StoryQuarterly, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. She contributes book reviews to the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times. Her novel, If You Follow Me, won the Michener-Copernicus Award, and a prize in the Pirate’s Alley/Faulkner contest.

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