Can love be strong enough to pass a different language, country and entirely different culture? Is there part of you that secretly thinks, ‘I wish I could meet Mr or Ms Right, preferably in Japan so I have an excuse to move there?’ If either of these questions pique your interest, I highly recommend The Good Shufu by Tracy Slater.
This is the first memoir I’ve reviewed on this blog, and I think I picked a good one. American thirty-something Tracy Slater, a teacher and proud feminist, decides to take up a job teaching English to businessmen in Asia on a whim and, completely unexpectedly, meets and falls in love with Tohru. The Good Shufu is a funny, charming but also serious account of Tracy’s life as she tries to balance a relationship in Japan and literary career in America, then later tries to assimilate into life in Osaka and as a shufu – a ‘housewife’.
Admittedly, I was initially puzzled by this book’s title and wasn’t sure what to expect. Identifying yourself as a housewife in the west isn’t exactly the done thing in the west but in Japan in certainly is to the point that shufu practically counts as a career. Much of The Good Shufu focuses on culture shock as Tracy struggles with the many intricacies of Japanese etiquette and cultural identity, while simultaneously developing her journalism career in a country where she barely speaks the language. Why? Love!
As well as an honest account of ex-pat life and trials and tribulations associated with assimilating into Japan – where even your height, blonde hair and failure to bow at the right moment can turn heads – this is also a story about love. They say it conquers all and it really does seem to be the case for Tracy and Tohru. Even though she is entirely dependent on him to order food at the beginning, you really do get a sense of this intimate relationship that needs no translation.
I’d like to point out that this book is set largely in Osaka, which is in danger of becoming my new favourite Japanese city and I will eventually blog about. All the talk about okonomiyaki and takoyaki gave me some serious cravings and, hypothetically, if I ever got to live in Japan I would be making a beeline for Osaka.
As with most of my reviews, I don’t like giving away too much plot because I don’t like to take away any surprises for readers. I really recommend The Good Shufu as it covers all the bases for me – love, Japan and food. You can buy the book on Amazon here and also check out Tracy’s website here. Expect to be pining for ‘a love like that’ when you’re finished reading.