Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “If You Follow Me” as Want to Read:
If You Follow Me
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

If You Follow Me

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  1,043 ratings  ·  175 reviews
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 l
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Harper Perennial (first published February 20th 2010)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,043 ratings  ·  175 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of If You Follow Me
Kater Cheek
Dec 15, 2009 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
Oct 27, 2011 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
Sep 13, 2010 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
Apr 07, 2010 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
Mar 04, 2010 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
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
Nov 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
I thought this book would be great, because of the original plot, but it was boring.
Maybe, this book it's not for me.

Jun 11, 2011 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
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorites. Love learning about what it's like to live abroad. ...more
Mar 01, 2010 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
Jan 08, 2016 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 17, 2010 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 my readi
Jennifer Mcgown
Jan 19, 2013 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 19, 2010 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
Mar 29, 2010 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.
Mar 16, 2010 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. ...more
Apr 05, 2010 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!
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.
Lauren orso
Mar 26, 2010 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.
Megan Hansen
Mar 16, 2010 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.

Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
There was something so quietly moving about this book. I quite enjoyed it.
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: red-queen
3.7/5.0. the "fish out of water" Japan expat story has been done, very many times. I can't award a full 4/5 stars for a cliched work. but, on the other hand, there is skill, there is fluency in the work that does not permit the 3.0.

like Watrous, I graduated Columbia University and went to Japan on the JET Programme. I am happy to see a classmate and colleague succeed in the literary world. Watrous did the Iowa Writers' Workshop, too, which is where a certain polish is added to the work I believe
Rocío  Iglesias
Oct 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex Lewis
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: romantic-mystery
Not something I would have picked up, but having taken online courses from the author induced me to read it. This is a story of a young woman who experiences frustration, confusion, mixed emotions, friendship, and finally love in a foreign culture. This is done with humor and beautiful subtilty throughout. Great art.
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
So.. This was readable but I'll only read it this one time. It was that interesting. Just remind me to never live in Japan. Most of it was interesting, parts of it I couldn't wait to get through from boredom. I slogged through it and came out on the other side. ...more
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved it. I’ve been living in Japan for the past 6 years and can relate to the indirect speeches, always being the temporary person and having an array of rules to remember. But this book gives me hope making me believe that I can still form deeper connections with the people around me.
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5/5. I'm not sure how I stumbled upon this book (I think maybe it was in a Goodreads blog post a while ago?), but I'm glad I did. ...more
Corinne Morier
Read it sometime in 2015. If I reread it, I'll write a proper review. ...more
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Learning more about Japanese culture was the highlight of this book. The story didn't ever grab me although there were a few chuckles here and there. ...more
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book. The cultural and communication style differences between the Japanese and Americans is hilariously accurate.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Falconer
  • Irma Voth
  • Racing Savannah
  • Life Before Legend (Legend, #0.5)
  • The Red Lotus
  • Nightbooks
  • The Quiet You Carry
  • Wreck: A Novel
  • The Garden of Letters
  • Prep
  • Zeitoun
  • In Zanesville
  • Ferris Beach
  • The Girls from Corona del Mar
  • Anywhere But Here (Mayan Stevenson, #1)
  • Falling Through the Earth
  • The Flying Troutmans
  • The Collected Stories
See similar books…
Malena Watrous is a writer and an instructor of creative writing. Her first novel, If You Follow Me, won the Michener-Copernicus Award and was a Lambda finalist. She co-authored a cookbook, My Mexico City Kitchen, with Gabriela Camara. She has taught workshops in both fiction and nonfiction at Barnard College and USF, and currently works as a Lead instructor for Stanford’s Continuing Studies Onlin ...more

News & Interviews

  Some people love books. Some people fall in love. And some people fall in love with books about falling in love. Every month our team...
44 likes · 4 comments
“Problem is, life is not karaoke booth” 1 likes
More quotes…