When budding journalist Lucy becomes obsessed with a new student at Northwestern University she is shocked when things change. After Owen Ota became her lover and sensei, in her terms, his sudden disappearance pushes her to find out what exactly happened to him. This will lead to a trip to Japan to try and learn what happened to the man she fell for.
Gaijin is a word used to describe non-Japanese people in Japan. In the description of her book Sarah Z. Sleeper does say that the slur is sometimes seen as a slur to mean “unwelcome foreigner” though it is not considered profanity. When Lucy goes to Japan to find Owen she finds herself on a three month quest, but the things she expected to see are missing. Instead of seeing the elegant culture she expected see, there are anti-U.S. protests, moments of sexist treatment, and she finds herself experiencing the frightening Suicide Forest. As the story evolves Lucy finds herself growing during her time in Japan and this is credited to Owen, though the larger mystery is whether she will find him during her quest.
Sleeper has crafted a story that shows the various truths that can exist in regards to a place and how they can be contradictory for those who do not truly know a place. The Japan Lucy expects is one that has been presented to her with the more real life elements removed. She does not expect the turmoil she winds up experiencing there and this changes some of her views of the country. Owen had given her the ability to fantasize about a perfect world, but Japan is more complex. If you are looking for a read that shows you how someone’s views change through experiences this is a book you should pick up. Find out where you can get a copy of Gaijin on the author’s website.