If You Follow Me

“Dear Miss Marina how are you? I’m fine thank you. A reason for this letter is: recently you attempt to throw away battery and jar and some kind of mushroom spaghetti and so forth, all together in one bin. Please don’t try “it wasn’t me.” We Japanese seldom eat gorgonzola cheese!”

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About the book

Hoping to outpace her grief in the wake of her father’s suicide, Marina, a recent college graduate, 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.

Alive with vibrant and unforgettable characters—from an ambitious town matchmaker to a high school student rap artist wannabe with an addiction to self-tanning lotion—it guides readers over cultural bridges even as it celebrates the awkward, unlikely triumph of the human spirit.

If You Follow Me is at once a coming-of-age, fish-out-of-water tale, a dark comedy of manners, and a strange kind of love story. It won a Michener-Copernicus award, and sections have been awarded a Glimmertrain Fiction Open award and runner-up in the Faulkner/Pirate’s Alley Contest.

Praise for
If You Follow Me

How is it that If You Follow Me manages to be at once so funny and so moving? In this beautiful novel, what is most “foreign” to Marina turns out to be her complex relationships with those she thought she knew best. Malena Watrous’s writing is sharp-edged and generous, tragic and true. I would follow her anywhere.
Katharine Noel

If You Follow Me is the kind of book you finish and then clutch to your heart as you run around telling everyone you know that they have to read it. I feel so close to these characters—and that’s because Malena Watrous has made them so vivid and alive on the page. These people know more than their share of sadness, and still they’re such a delight to spend time with—like friends you’ll stick by no matter what, whose frailties and awkwardness are not detractors but “charm points.” Watrous has written a book of great genuine warmth, startling honesty, and remarkable power. I cherish it.
Thisbe Nissen

With humor and sharp insight, grace and unflinching honesty, Watrous shows us not only what it’s like to be a young American living in rural Japan, but also what it means to explore the terra incognita of love — that mapless province where the laws are always changing, the language carries infinite layers of meaning, and even the most experienced traveler often feels like a foreigner. Watrous is a wonderful writer, and this is a deeply moving and indelible book.
Julie Orringer

Graceful, smart, and filled with wonder, IF YOU FOLLOW ME is a heartfelt delight from beginning to end.
Michelle Richmond