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American Fuji

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  926 Ratings  ·  181 Reviews
Japan itself is the comic hero of this sweet and funny, sad and inspiring novel.

Gaby Stanton, an American professor living in Japan, has lost her job teaching English at Shizuyama University. (No one will tell her exactly why.) Alex Thorn, an American psychologist, is mourning his son, a Shizuyama exchange student who was killed in an accident. (No one will tell him exactl
Paperback, 404 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Berkley Trade (first published March 19th 2001)
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Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What I learned after reading this book is that, you do not simply judge books from a thrift store. Well because I obviously bought this for a very cheap amount and I didn't imagine I'm actually going to like this since I only want to give it a try, but it really turned out I enjoyed everything about this book. The story plot was a bit unusual and this is not a traditional romance genre where two people simply make out and swear their vows at the altar in the end. This one is about meeting fate, ...more
Dec 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2010
I didn't read this book for a book club, but I'm not sure if I could think of a better book club book.

The general plot is fun, engaging, and a little bit different. Alex Thorn is a pop-psychologist visiting Japan to try to find out about his son's death. Gaby Stanton is a university English professor living in Japan. Of course it's inevitable that the gaijin meet up, and they do.

Beyond the plot though, the book is rife with commentary. Nationalized health care, gender equality, and cultural se
Lorna Collins
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This novel is set in Japan in the '90s. We arrived in 1998 and stayed into 2001. The result is our own book, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, published in 2005.

This book was like a walk down memory lane. All the frustrations, curiosities, and those inexplicably Japanese quirks struck familiar chords.

Sara Becker clearly understands the expat experience and conveys it in an interesting manner. Her characters and their situations allow the reader to get a real feeling for the many
Aug 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My five-star book for the year!

I've never been to Japan, but have read so many books about it- fiction, travel narrative and non-fiction - that I feel I have been. Backer succeeds in portraying a culture through example, rather than outright exposition. The characters were very well done, protagonists, villain, and supporting, and Backer finesses the potential romance angle perfectly.
Minor quibbles might be that the plot seemed hurried a bit toward the end, and (I suppose) one might say that Ga
Sep 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
TITLE/AUTHOR: American Fuji by Sara Backer
GENRE/PUB DATE/# OF PGS: Fiction/2001/404 pgs
TIME/PLACE: Present/Japan
CHARACTERS: Gaby Stanton/American professor living in Japan; Alex Thorn/American psychologist
FIRST LINES: Toilets and cars. That's what Mr. Eguchi had trained Gabriela Stanton to notice whenever she made house calls.

COMMENTS: Bookcrossing ring/ray. Gaby Stanton is let go from her teaching position and finds work selling fantasy funerals w/ a company called Gone With
Nov 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub
Even though American Fuji felt like a light read, that does not mean it was empty or frivolous. The author handled themes of culture differences, sexual discrimination, death, health, love, and betrayal so adeptly that I didn't even realize how heavily they played into the story line.

Two outcasts in Japanese culture are brought together in their quests to solve their individual mysteries, and discover that their lives become intertwined by both fate and choice. Yet their coming together doesn't
Ariana Deralte
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery-thriller
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Alex is a psychologist-author who has come to Japan to promote his new book and to find out the circumstances of his son's death a year ago. Gaby is a former college English professor in Japan, now working as a salesperson for fancy funerals. She longs to find out the reason she was fired by the university. Their wishes are stymied, some by cultural difference, some by deliberate evasions, but the two persist. Gaby's being bilingual and more aware of the cultural differences becomes important to ...more
Sep 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Gaby Stanton is an expatriate living in Japan. For reasons she does not know, nor does she understand, she recently lost her job teaching English to students at the local University and has recently started working for a Fantasy Funeral home. A series of events has Gaby crossing paths with Alex Thorn. An American father who has come to Japan to find out what caused the death of his exchange student son. The two of them join forces and make their way through the Japanese culture to solve both of ...more
Jun 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
American Fujiis a delightful novel that's part Japanese cultural guide, part fictionalized autobiography, part mystery, and part commentary on the state of American health care. American expat Gaby Stanton, inflicted with a 'shameful' chronic condition, stays in Japan for the health insurance coverage, working as a salesperson in a fantasy funeral company after having inexplicably lost her professorship at Shizuoka University. A forged invoice from her new company--"Gone with the Wind"--brings A ...more
Sep 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, novels, japan
The view of Japan and Japanese people provided by this novel is really, really outdated. (There are almost no clues as to when the story takes place, but it felt like it was the early 80s. The book was published in the early 2000s, though.) Like a lot of American novels about Japan, this one makes liberal use of stereotypes and Japanese people don't come out looking too good. On the other hand, stereotypes of foreigners living in Japan also abound, and those characters don't always come out look ...more
Sep 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: decent-fiction
This is the story of Gaby Stanton, an American who was teaching at a Japanese university. Gaby unexpectedly loses her job and is forced to take a job selling fantasy funerals. She's in dark times. She doesn't understand why she lost her job, she's sick and can't receive her needed operation because she's single, and she's lonely - tired of always being the outcast.

Through a series of coincidences she meets Alex, an author whose son died a year ago. He's in Japan to understand what happened to hi
I don't usually read contemporary realistic fiction, but this once takes place in Japan and is described as "quirky" on the back cover, and it was a Christmas gift, so I started it.

It is indeed quirky, and has low-key and sometimes lowbrow humor, along with a fairly intriguing mystery and a lot of exposition of the weirder aspects of Japanese culture. The last is done for mostly for laughs at first but is usually relevant to the plot as well as fascinating in its own right.

Characters are colorfu
Jan 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is an unusual story with unusual characters. The story takes place in Japan. It centers around an American woman suffering from chronic disease who lives and works in Japan for the free health care and an American male who comes to Japan to find the answers surrounding his son's death.

Part way through I thought "Oh no! A typical mystery involving the mob. Boring!" But, it wasn't so! This book has so many surprises. The plot points the reader in one direction only to shatter the conclusions
Nov 22, 2010 rated it liked it
I have many embarrassing weaknesses, but most pertinent to this review, is my J-book weakness.

As I love everything about Japan, I have an insatiable hunger for any and every book that is set there, and I'll be guaranteed to read any old rubbish, just to satisfy it.

Happily for me, this book, American Fuji, isn't rubbish, nor does it follow the usual template of the "coming of age, rite of passage, oh shit, I'm a stranger in a strange land" deal. It's actually a bit of a mystery novel, and a bit
Dec 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very well worth reading. This book takes you outside of the tourist view of Japan. It isn't always comfortable to read but you cannot put it down. The two main characters are finely draw and you care very much about each of them and what you hope happens for them.

This is a book where I wouldn't say it ends happily-ever-after but then real life rarely does and since the book was written with a large dose of reality I don't think happily-ever-after would have been a very satisfying ending. We all
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan
I'm an American woman who taught English in Japan for 2 years in the 1990s, and this book really resonated with me. Sarah Backer hit the nail on the head over and over again in her portrayal of what it's like to be a Westerner living in Japan. She does this in a way that's often funny and sometimes quite moving. I was immediately sucked in in the first few pages because for me it was a walk down memory lane, the feeling of "Yes! That's exactly what it was like!" and quite a few chuckles. But the ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
American Fuji is a blend of American style in Japanese culture. Gabby Stanton is an American professor teaching English at Shizuyama University. She was relieved of her teaching duties and does not know why. Her new job is in sales with a Japanese fantasy funeral company - "Gone With the Wind". Alex Thorn is an American psychologist visiting Japan on a book tour. His ulterior motive is to investigate the death of his son, an exchange student at Shizuyama University. Alex's search and Gabby's sto ...more
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.
Pamela Huxtable
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Pamela by: Denise Hersey
American Fuji by Sara Backer starts off as a fairlly typical,American in Japan, Lost in Translation sort of story with the stereotypical characters that go along with this type of story. There's Lester, the ugly (in manner) foreigner, Alex Thorne, the uncomfortable American abroad, and Gaby Stanton, the American who is more comfortable in Japan. The Japanese characters appear to be stereotypes as well, with Eguchi, the yakuza boss, Marubatsu, the professor convinced of his Japanese superiority, ...more
Oct 25, 2012 rated it liked it
There's a lot going on in this novel: a fantasy funeral business, a mysterious death, a chronic illness, a self-help book on marriage, the Japanese mafia, a corrupt Buddhist priest, skeezy foreigners hitting on young Japanese women, and so much more. It's travel-lit, mystery, drama, and romance all wrapped into one. Does it sound like a first novel from a writer who's attempting too much? Because that's how it feels -- like an overly-complicated, forced effort. It's interesting enough to keep me ...more
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
I finished American Fuji by Sara Backer.
This is a meandering novel with uncertain detours. If it were not for the writing style, that I can only describe as insipid, all the flavor and texture of over boiled canned spinach, I might have enjoyed the odd layering and threads with their false promises. Alex is a middle-aged divorced American whose only child died a year earlier in a motorcycle accident while studying in Japan. Alex has come to Japan because he can get no answers about the details o
I enjoyed reading this book quite a bit. The author spent 3 years as the first woman, first American visiting professor of English at Shizuoka University in Japan. So she has a very solid basis for writing a book about an American woman English professor living in Japan. She is quite snarky about Japan, which I found amusing, but the reader can also tell that she has a love for Japan as well.
This book isn't autobiographical, it is fiction. It involves this American woman in Japan who has been in
Jill Furedy
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
I've not read many books based in modern Japan, so perhaps that's part of why this book stood out to me. The book highlights cultural differences through the eyes of a newly arrived American as well as one who has been living there a while and has a better understanding of the culture. They also have different perspectives due to the differing treatment towards men and women in Japan. There are quite a few interesting characters in the story...the whole mysterious death of Alex's son drives the ...more
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
What an unusual book. Very astute perspective of Japanese culture outside of Tokyo according to my Japanese book club friends while American reader friends (including me) thought it crazy - guess not! Loved the Japanese words and phrases inserted, and amazed the near cartoonish Japanese pronunciations of American words did not offend my J-friends at all since they said they really did pronounce English words that way - except for "Thorn" (thinking of how The Help got ripped for "sterotyping" sou ...more
Sep 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am unsure if I will finish this book. I may abandon it after a few chapters. It is set in 1990s Japan. It style is cutsey and I am offended by the way she treats the Japanese characters, AND the American characters too.

This is not Belle Canto, but by ch. 6 I am getting interested.

"Americans wanted results. Japanese wanted relationships, coded into a hierarchy of favors and obligations." p. 69 (True, true.)

It has taken a long time to warm up to this book, but I am hooked by the mystery: how did
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
A friend loaned this book to me and I had very little expectation of it being entertaining. I am so glad that I gave it a chance. Backer's insightful view into modern day Japan was not only entertaining, but educational, funny, sad and enlightening. I loved Eguchi! With all the Beatle's english talk, I laughed out loud (which gets a full star in any book). His particular character was so vividly described that I could not only picture him, but felt that, if given a chance, I could have a meaning ...more
Apr 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
I just found out from the author's website that this novel is being reissued soon. As the author writes on her site, it is difficult to explain the plot of this novel, but it was especially relevant for me because the protagonist suffers from a similar chronic illness to mine, and this is the first and only time I have encountered a fictional character with this type of illness. I recommend it for readers who want a different view of Japan than the usual romantized one, but al ...more
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
If you are a fan of Japan, romances and mysteries, this book is for you. This book had a little bit of everything, and it was quite enjoyable. The plot is about a woman named Gaby who is fired from her job working for a Japanese university for an unknown reason. She gets a job working for a company that does fantasy funerals. Meanwhile, Alex has traveled to Japan to investigate the death of his son, which happened in mysterious circumstances. The two eventually meet. This book was enjoyable beca ...more
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What do Japanese think of this book? 1 8 Nov 29, 2011 11:43AM  
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After getting a graduate degree in creative writing from the University of California at Davis, I spent three years in Japan (1990-1993), as the first American and first woman to serve as visiting professor of English at Shizuoka University. This experience informed my first novel, American Fuji, which was a book club pick of the Honolulu Advertiser and a nominee for the Kiriyama Prize.

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“Mount Fuji was mostly invisible n the summer, but on clear days she could see its grand and graceful silhouette dominating the northern sky. White herons gathered in the river upstream from laundry suds pouring out of a city grate, and hydrangeas bloomed on the banks, dropping blue and lavender petals over soda cans and bento cartons littered beside the asphalt.” 2 likes
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