In Brett’s debut novel, an American student embarks on a journey of self-discovery while pursuing her future in Japan.
Dorothy Falwell, a 23-year-old woman from Illinois, arrives in Tokyo in 1981, eager to start the banking internship that she believes will ensure her admission into an international MBA program. When she arrives at the bank, however, she’s dismayed to discover the internship is unpaid. Desperate for paying work, she accepts a job as a hostess at a suburban club. The owner, Mr. Matsumoto, dislikes the name Dorothy and renames her “Gina,” after his favorite actress, Gina Lollobrigida. Intent on pursuing her banking career, Dorothy soon quits the club, but financial realities force her to return to hostessing at a place owned by Mr. Matsumoto’s wife. There, she befriends the other hostesses and attracts an admirer, Mr. Tambuki, a wealthy businessman. He’s also a former Buddhist monk, and he introduces Dorothy to the way of Zen and the beauty of Japanese art. When she isn’t entertaining clients at the club, she indulges in a passionate affair with him. As their relationship deepens, she enters an intoxicating world of art and sexual experimentation; however, her lover maintains an aura of mystery. Then an encounter with a client takes a dangerous turn, making her take stock of her life. Brett’s engaging and compulsively readable debut traces one woman’s erotic coming-of-age in a frank, intelligent manner. Dorothy is an appealing protagonist—a recent college graduate anxious to leave her hometown of Joliet and see the world. Her initial culture shock and disappointment regarding the internship are believable, as are her close friendships with lifelong residents and members of the expatriate community. The well-developed supporting characters include Hiro, a Japanese student and Dorothy’s erstwhile boyfriend; and Gabe, an American expatriate. Her scenes with Mr. Tambuki are intensely erotic without being gratuitous, and Brett effectively uses their shared love of art as a means of expression, seduction, and, in a particularly powerful scene, stretching personal boundaries.
A sharply observed and unforgettable debut.