Book Review: Gaijin by Sarah Z. Sleeper

I’m revisiting Japan again today after a lovely visit last year. However, this time we see a darker side of Japanese culture.

Goodreads Blurb

Gaijin by Sarah Z. Sleeper

Lucy is a budding journalist at Northwestern University and she’s obsessed with an exotic new student, Owen Ota, who becomes her lover and her sensei. When he disappears without explanation, she’s devastated and sets out to find him. On her three-month quest across Japan, she finds only snippets of the elegant culture Owen had described. Instead, she faces anti-U.S. protests, menacing street thugs and sexist treatment, and she winds up at the base of Mt. Fuji, in the terrifying Suicide Forest. Will she ever find Owen? Will she be driven back to the U.S.? Gaijin is a coming-of-age story about a woman who solves a heartbreaking mystery that alters the trajectory of her life.

Gaijin Book Cover


To be honest, based on the blurb of Gaijin, I was expecting a simple love story. What I got instead was a book filled with depth and beauty. That includes the story of Lucy and Owen, the descriptions of Japan, and a quest to find the truth.

However, as I already mentioned, this book has dark elements. As much as I was intrigued by haiku and tea ceremonies, I also learned how difficult it is to be a foreigner in certain parts of Japan and the contempt toward the American army. This delve into Japanese culture also showed me how certain traditions can ensure that areas of the population are not accepted, and how sexism is still rife. However, these themes were all touched upon in a respectful way, bringing no disrespect to Japan and its people.

Gaijin is the perfect balance between telling an intriguing story but staying true to real-life situations.

Gaijin by Sarah Sleeper is available to buy now.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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