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Country of Origin: A Novel by Don Lee

Country of Origin: A Novel (2004)

by Don Lee

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I enjoyed this much more than I expected. There was some graphic and uneeded sex but the different plots lines all wove together very effectively. I even enjoyed the '20 years on' ending, which can sometimes be terribly clunky. I don't know alot about Japan and I think I missed a certain amount of details but I also learned alot without being overally didactic. A good read.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
Lisa Countryman is abducted in Tokyo, possibly taken by someone in the Tokyo sex industry. When her sister reports her missing, people in the U.S. embassy don't seem bothered by her disappearance.

Tom Hurley is a bored diplomat. He disguises his own cultural background and seems more interested in his affair with the wife of a CIA officer.

The Japanese police officer assigned to help with the case is Kanzo Otto. He's a self conscious person who is also preoccupied. He's worried that there is too much noise near his appartment and he won't be able to sleep. He's also afraid of his landlord, who picks on him.

We follow Lisa's steps as she arrives in 'Tokyo. She seems to want to continue her thesis but when the promised teaching job falls through, she takes a job as a hostess in a gentlemen's club.

Lisa is half Japanese and half African American. Besides wanting to study bar girls as part of her thesis, she also is in search of her family history.

The novel seems more of a study of Lisa's attempts to fit in and deals with her mistakes with Japanese traditions and the view the Japanese men have toward women and in particular, with women of mixed race. ( )
  mikedraper | Jan 31, 2011 |
Japan, end of the 1980”s—a young American of mixed Asian and African American descent disappears. No one seems to care—not the junior officer in the US consulate who covers his mixed heritage by saying he is Hawaiian, not the mediocre Japanese detective who is assigned the case. Unexpectedly, it is the Japanese outsider who overcomes his racist views to keep the case open and make an effort to find out what happened to the young American. ( )
2 vote EssFair | Oct 10, 2008 |
A disappointing page-turner by the former editor of Ploughshares and author of Yellow. I expected it to be more literary than the detective novel it is. Parts of it tried too hard, like all the identity issues, constant reminders of time period via headline news paragrahps, the gorgeous women and gorgeous men always getting involved, having affairs, screwing all the time, graphically, and to me self-servingly. Strongly woven plot and clearly, cleanly written, but NONE of the characters appeal to me, and the denouement is forced (but probably bc I don't care about the people). A lot of hard research about Tokyo's sex industry...
  sungene | Oct 24, 2007 |
Lisa Countryman vanishes in Tokyo. An embassy person is assigned, but does little, since he is more interested in the wife of a CIA agent. Only Kenzo Ota, the Japanese policeman in charge of the case, will not let go. Eventually, all the different persons and strands of their lives come togehter.
Well written, only reflects Japanese life.
  AnneliM | Dec 31, 1969 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 039332706X, Paperback)

A dazzling debut novel by the prize-winning author of Yellow, set in the unique and exotic nightworld of Tokyo.

In this "poignant story of prejudice, betrayal and the search for identity" (Newsweek International), the trials and tribulations of these three remarkable characters are "at turns trenchantly funny and heartbreakingly sad" (Publishers Weekly). "[An] elegant and haunting debut" (Entertainment Weekly), Country of Origin is a "swirl of action, a whirl of love and sex and race and politics, local and international" (Chicago Tribune)—a "quiet literary triumph" (Booklist)

Lisa Countryman is a woman of complex origins. Half-Japanese, adopted by African American parents, she returns to Tokyo, ostensibly to research her thesis on Japan's "sad, brutal reign of conformity." When she vanishes, Tom Hurley, who is half-Korean and half-white, is assigned to her case at the American embassy, as is local cop Kenzo Ota, who is 100 percent Japanese but deemed an outsider.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:34 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Lisa Countryman vanishes in Tokyo but no one seems to be in a particular hurry to find her. The American embassy official assigned to her case, Tom Hurley, can't be bothered, entangled as he is in an unsavory love affair with the wife of a CIA officer. The neurotic Japanese cop in charge of the investigation, Kenzo Ota, is equally preoccupied, ridiculed by his peers, demeaned by his superiors, his life a lonely shambles. Worse, it appears that Lisa has disappeared into the shadow world of Tokyo's sex trade, where a bewildering and often comical variety of clubs cater to every imaginable male fantasy." "The mystery of her disappearance is intertwined with the mystery of her origins as an ainoko, or half-breed. For Lisa, who is half African American and half Asian, alienation and belonging, love and hate, are bound up with race. All the characters' loyalties are divided - between their countries of origin and their adoptive nationalities, between their society's traditions and their own sense of justice - as they yearn to find where they truly belong." "Country of Origin is an exploration of the meaning of identity and belonging."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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