And so begins "If You Follow Me" and Marina's lessons in 'gomi' (garbage) law, Japanese culture, and the workings of Shika, the small, rural Japanese town in which she is teaching English for one year. For recent college grad Marina, Shika becomes more than just her home as a 'temporary person'. It's also an attempt to escape the bleak reality that has followed her every day since her father committed suicide only a year earlier. But as Marina comes to realise, in Japan, you can never really throw away your past. For a young woman who has fled to another country to try and outpace her grief, this comes to have a profound meaning. Part coming-of-age, part fish-out-of-water story, "If You Follow Me" is seeped in the tension of being the outsider in an intimate community and the joy in finding that human nature is the same everywhere.
Marina is a big city girl in a small town filled with off-beat characters including an ambitious town matchmaker, a dentist looking for free English lessons, a high school student imitating Western rap artists with his own afro and addiction to self-tanning lotion, and finally Marina's America-obsessed supervisor, Hiro, a town leader whose connection with Marina teaches her more than she ever expected. In keeping with the Japanese tradition of honoring the seasons in art and writing, "If You Follow Me" is split into four sections: Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Through each season, debut author Malena Watrous' gorgeous writing is on display as she guides readers over the cultural bridges her exquisitely drawn characters must cross to understand each other. "If You Follow Me" is a dark comedy of manners and ultimately a strange kind of love story that marks the beginning of a wonderful new career.