"Japan itself is the comic hero of American Fuji...sweet and funny, sad and inspiring."
Gaby Stanton, an American professor living in Japan, has lost her job teaching English at Shizuyama University. (No one will tell her exactly why.) Alex Thorn, an American psychologist, is mourning his son, a Shizuyama exchange student who was killed in an accident. (No one will tell him exactly how.) Alex has come to this utterly foreign place to find the truth, and now Gaby is serving as his translator and guide. The key to mastering Japanese, she keeps telling him, is understanding what's not being said. And in this "deft and delightful" (Karen Joy Fowler) novel, the unsaid truths about everything from work and love to illness and death cast a deafening silence-and tower in the background like Mount Fuji itself.
"Sometimes, one must accept what has happened without understanding it." Poet and short story writer Backer's highly entertaining, seriocomic debut novel explores this intrinsic Japanese philosophy from a unique perspective--that of a single American woman living and working in Japan. The concept of blind acceptance, difficult for any American to understand, is especially frustrating for Gabriela "Gaby" Stanton, 36, fired from her beloved teaching job at Shizuyama University for mysterious reasons. Gaby now works for Mr. Eguchi of Gone with the Wind, a company that sells fantasy funerals, including burial on the moon. Middle-aged Alex Thorn is also a victim of the collision of East/West culture. Alex has come to Japan seeking answers concerning the death of his 20-year-old son, Cody, an exchange student attending the university where Gaby taught. Cody died in a motorcycle accident, and his heart was removed for a transplant. But Cody had adopted a Buddhist philosophy that strictly prohibits organ donation. Alex's search for the details of his son's death lead him to Gaby, since Gone With the Wind shipped Cody's body home to America. Backer adeptly evokes her characters' emotional dislocation as Gaby and Alex negotiate a country where natives often can't read their own language and group needs supersede those of the individual. (Mar. 19) Forecast: The novel's ending should satisfy an American readership's need for closure, but its slow unfolding may defy their accustomed sense of pacing. Patience, reader-san, "There is much to be learned from following a path." If booksellers emphasize the novel's quality (and point out that Backer was the first American and the first woman to serve as visiting professor of English at Japan's Shizuoka University, and that an early draft of American Fuji was named a finalist in the James Jones First Novel competition), success should ensue. Rights sold in the Netherlands and France. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.