Six days after an InStyle-worthy wedding in Los Angeles, Lisa Fineberg Cook left behind her little red Jetta, her manicurist of ten years, and her very best friend for the land of the rising sun. When her husband accepted a job teaching English in Nagoya, Japan, she imagined exotic weekend getaways, fine sushi dinners, and sake sojourns with glamorous expat friends. Instead she's the only Jewish girl on public transportation, and everyone is staring. Lisa longs for regular mani/pedis, valet parking, and gimlets with her girlfriends, but for the next year she learns to cook, clean, commute, and shop like the Japanese, all the while adjusting to another foreign concept - marriage. Loneliness and frustration give way to new and unexpected friendships, the evolution of old ones, and a fresh understanding of what it means to feel different - until finally a world she never thought she'd fit into begins to feel home-like, if not exactly like home.
Funny and engaging, Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me: The True Story of a Domesticated Princess reads like a mix of chicklit, travelogue, and memoir. The book is arranged chronologically and into the six main areas of culture shock: Laundry, Cooking, Transportation, Shopping, Cleaning and Intermission.
Lisa Fineberg Cook doesn't pull any punches - she is as harsh towards herself as she is to her new acquaintances, which makes for an entertaining narrative. We learn of her frustration and isolation as she is constantly stared at, described as Meg Ryan, and is treated, albeit politely, as an outsider. As she learns to navigate the city of Nagoya and finds her own friends, we enjoy the moments of triumph as Lisa wins the respect and affection of those around her. As to be expected in books of this nature, Lisa becomes more of a sympathetic character as she learns to adjust to the world around her.
I thoroughly enjoyed Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me: The True Story of a Domesticated Princess. I recommend this book highly. It'll likely be particularly hilarious to people interested in Japan or those who have moved overseas or those who have had to adjust to a new environment (most of us!).
Publisher: Downtown Press; 1 edition (October 20, 2009), 288 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
About the Author, courtesy of Amazon:
Lisa Fineberg Cook, a self-described Jewish American Princess from L.A., leaps at the chance for an exciting adventure when her brand-new husband's brand-new job takes them to Japan a week after they're wed.
Thank you so much, Sarah and Pocket Books for this review opportunity!