All of us here at ModCloth are big readers. So, to spread our love of literature and help promote National Reading Month, we’re giving away five copies of our book of the month, Malena Watrous’ If You Follow Me (Harper Perennial; $14.99).
To enter, join our Book Smarts group on GoodReads, and leave us a comment in the discussion titled, “What Are You Reading This Month?” Don’t know about GoodReads? It’s a social networking site that allows book lovers to share their favorite finds. If you tell us what book you’re currently reading ON GOODREADS by 11:59 p.m. on March 31, you could receive a free copy of If You Follow Me!
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 in a college bereavement group and followed to Japan, the more she seems to stick out. The main culprit for this is Marina’s inability to understand Japanese gomi, or garbage, law that is practically akin to obsessive compulsive behavior. We’re not just talking about separating out recyclables — everyday of the month is reserved for a particular type of waste. As embarrassingly advised to Marina in a letter, “Before you throw a bottle, please clean (very clean!) and remove paper from outside. You should save this paper for Tuesday’s burnable collection, to put in bin by Mister Donuts. I think you eat a donuts every day. Maybe you know Mister Donuts location well.”
As her neighbors obsess over her gomi foibles, Marina tries everything to reach her students, whose attention is monopolized by Hello Kitty and sumo wrestling (she eventually succeeds somewhat by using sex-ed aids). As seasons pass for Marina abroad and her relationship with Carolyn deteriorates, she slowly discovers that she can’t be afraid to strike out on her own — even if that means facing the reality of her father’s death.
Loosely based on Watrous’ own life, If You Follow Me humorously depicts an awkward outsider’s experience. From the difficult-to-break language barrier to wrongly-taken social cues, Watrous’ rich characters make you feel like it could be you mixing up the plastics and paper outside of Mister Donuts. Though at times her prose lags, Watrous’ debut effort succeeds with a sharp eye capable of picking apart relationships and intensely voicing that strange space that lies between life and death. If You Follow Me will make you believe that nothing can truly disappear.
Interested in finding out for yourself? Visit us at GoodReads for a chance to win a copy of If You Follow Me!