Gaijin Book Review

Gaijin was gifted to me in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Book: Gaijin

Author: Sarah Z Sleeper

Publication date: 6th August 2020

Genre: contemporary

Rating: 3 stars


Lucy, a budding journalist at Northwestern University, is obsessed with an exotic new student, Owen Ota, who becomes her lover and her sensei. When he disappears without explanation, she’s devastated and sets out to find him.

On her three-month quest across Japan, she finds only snippets of the elegant culture Owen had described. Instead she becomes a gaijin (the Japanese word meaning “unwelcome foreigner”). Lucy faces anti-U.S. protests, menacing street thugs and sexist treatment, and winds up at the base of Mt. Fuji, in the terrifying Suicide Forest. Will she ever find Owen, or will she be driven back to the U.S. alone? 

A coming-of-age story about a woman who solves a heartbreaking mystery that alters the trajectory of her life, Gaijin is loosely based on Sleeper’s four years in Japan.

My review

I wasnt sure what to expect going into thus novel but I had a good time reading it. The writing is very fast paced and very description.

Our main character Lucy arrives in Okinawa during a time.of very high tension and stress as a young girl from Tokyo has accused an American soldier of rape which has led to protests and a very anti american sentiment throughout this novel.

We follow Lucy as she struggles with finding her way in this very different lifestyle and country to one she is used to and also trying to find a man she believes she is in love with. Right at the beginning of the novel we do find out where this man has disappeared to and the reasons behind it so we ended up with no mystery at all which I found a little disappointing. I believe the author could have planned out the mystery some more and actually had our main character actively out searching for these answers as the synopsis suggested.

One thing that I found a little uncomfortable was how obsessed lucy became over Owen, a man she barely knew and when he left town obsessed obsessed and depressed she was over it then up and flew to the other side of the world to have this wonderful reunion where they live happily ever after.

All in all I did have a pleasant reading experience with this book. It was very fast paced and I read it in one day. I am not an own voices reviewer so please look for those reviews regarding the portrayal of Okinawa and the cultural differences.

About the author

Sarah Z. Sleeper is an ex-journalist with an MFA in creative writing. Gaijin is her first novel. Her short story, “A Few Innocuous Lines,” won an award from Writer’s Digest. Her non-fiction essay, “On Getting Vivian,” was published in The Shanghai Literary Review. Her poetry was published in A Year in Ink, San Diego Poetry Annual and Painters & Poets, and exhibited at the Bellarmine Museum. In the recent past she was an editor at New Rivers Press, and editor-in-chief of the literary journal Mason’s Road. She completed her MFA at Fairfield University in 2012. Prior to that she had a twenty-five-year career as a business writer and technology reporter and won three journalism awards and a fellowship at the National Press Foundation.

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