If You Follow Me

Suicide in Shanghai Girls by Lisa See.

Suicide in A Wild Sheep Chase by my beloved Haruki Murakami.

Suicide again in If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous.

I can’t stand any more; it’s so depressing.

I splash water on my face and return to the art room, where I have to pose for two more classes before lunch. I keep my eyes closed but I can’t fall asleep. I keep thinking about my father. I think about the note he left in the glove compartment of his car, a note so short that I memorized it without trying, without wanting to. I am sorry for the pain that this will cause you, but I am in a black hole of despair and I can’t find my way out. I forfeit the right to give you any advice. Please try not to be too sad and move on with your lives. Try not to be too sad? Move on with your lives? I’ve been following this advice like a dare. Maybe Carolyn is right, I think. Maybe I have no feelings…” p. 170

I, however, have plenty of feelings, and I didn’t enjoy reading about Marina’s which came across to me as indulgent and self-absorbed. I didn’t like that she has a female lover, Carolyn, whom she followed to Japan where she could teach English. I didn’t like the way that gomi, garbage, was featured in every single chapter in the first half of the book: how to get rid of it, where it goes, how it was brought back to the girls after they’d placed it in the wrong disposal container. Enough already with the rotten beef, the broken Amana refrigerator, their neighbor, Mrs. Ogawa, telling them how to recycle Japanese style.

It was interesting to learn some Japanese vocabulary. It was interesting to learn some Japanese customs. It was interesting to imagine my life as a teacher in Japan through Marina’s life.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t relate to the choices she made in her lifestyle. How about you? How do you feel when reading about characters who are diametrically opposed to you?

Find other stops along the tour here:

Wednesday, March 10th: Take Me Away

Thursday, March 11th: Life in the Thumb

Monday, March 15th: Raging Bibliomania

Wednesday, March 17th: Stephanie’s Written Word

Thursday, March 18th: nomadreader

Monday, March 22nd: Books and Movies

Wednesday, March 24th: Book Chatter

Tuesday, March 30th: BookNAround

Wednesday, March 31st: Bookstack

18 thoughts on “If You Follow Me

  1. You know I depend on many variations of one simple guideline: Choose carefully the voices you listen to, as they will shape the words you speak.Violence, death, suicide, addiction, abuse ~ all are part of life and worthy subjects for writers, particularly writers capable of exploring them with sensitivity and depth.But gratuitous violence? Sex simply for titillation? Suicide as romance? Abuse that the writer seems to delight in? Books that begin to make me feel sick to my stomach or depressed? That's not for me. I'm entirely capable of putting down a book, tossing an article or closing a blog and turning away. It's not that I fear them or mean to judge them. It's simply that I've met and spent time with all those realities, in one way or another, and prefer to fill my final years different visions. After all, as the early programmers liked to say, "garbage in, garbage out". 😉


  2. And don't forget the suicide in The Waves (Rhoda).I love the comment of shoreacres above. I feel the same. It's not the characters opposed to me that I don't like (most of my favourite characters are nothing like me), it's the pointless negativity that the writing evokes.By the way, I love this template soo much better than the previous one. This is lovely. Love the header.


  3. "It's not that I fear them or mean to judge them." Absolutely! I don't want to fear or judge, either, and I don't want to live within a narrow frame of mind. But, it was the lesbian relationship in this book that I simply could not relate to. The suicide as well is a difficult topic for me, as my first husband suffered terribly with depression before he took his life.


  4. Claire, you're right! Another suicide in the past month's worth of reading. I love reading about another culture, or an incredibly artistic sort of individual (hence my fascination with Murakami and Japanese literature in general). Pointless negativity seems a good way to describe what becomes intolerable to me.The old header was great for simplicity, but rather drab when I looked at it in the beginning of March. This one feels much more prepared for Spring!


  5. I will stay away from that, and have been for awhile! I loved A Wild Sheep Chase, and my post on it will be up tomorrow so we can discuss it with Tanabata. It's taking me a longer time than I wanted to open up Dance Dance Dance which is the sequel.


  6. I think it depends on how the characters differ from me – if they're bold in a way that I'd like to be then I love them; if their values are opposite mine, then I struggle with them.


  7. I forfeit the right to give you any advice. Please try not to be too sad and move on with your lives.Contradictory much? I haven't read the book, but certainly it's revelatory of Marina's character that she attempted to follow the second sentence here and not the first.As far as reading about characters opposed to me, I suppose it depends. I don't get too worked up about things I would consider lifestyle choices (e.g., career), but I do struggle when a character's morality is out of line with my own (when that character is intended to be sympathetic only, of course).


  8. Bermuda Onion, that was my problem: values. I didn't know how to say it without sounding so judgemental, I was thinking 'moral code' and that sounds so high and mighty, but the core of the problem for me was that the main character's values were so different from mine there was just no way I could relate to her.


  9. I struggle with morality issues, too. I like to read to know of the whole big world out there, but I like it best when I sympathize with the character's point of view.


  10. Ack! Sorry this one wasn't for you! But to be honest, when a character has different values than me (to use bermudaonion's word), then I have a hard time liking the book. So I totally understand what you're talking about. Thanks for being on the tour!


  11. Trish, I feel so badly when I reviewing a book for your tour, and it doesn't work for me. I have to be honest, though, and sometimes that just incites more interest than saying, "Ooooh, I loved it."


  12. I enjoy reading about characters with different values and/or books espousing different values. Indeed, that is one of the main things I love about reading, being exposed to different view points which makes me see the world from a different perspective and in a different way. I haven't read that much lesbian fiction but as long as the characters seem real and true to themselves and it is a well written book I am fine with that. I recently read a book that espoused a particular value that was diametrically opposed to mine and I admit it made me angry. But I wasn't angry because I didn't agree with the author, I was angry because the position came out of left field and didn't fit with the other 95% of the book. Indeed, I would have enjoyed reading about the authors position if it made sense with the rest of the story and characters in the book. I don't read to confirm or challenge my own values. I like to read books that provide different perspectives. That being said, I read for pleasure so I may not choose to read numerous books about suicide in a row no matter how well written they are!


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