Self-described Jewish American Princess Cook temporarily relocated to Nagoya, Japan, where her husband worked as a teacher while she navigated the quotidian ins and outs of expat life.
Following her splashy wedding, the author regretfully traded her Beverly Hills existence—replete with regular visits to Neiman Marcus, her longtime hair stylist and manicurist and constant contact with her childhood best friend and family—for far less luxurious conditions in Asia. After their business-class flight, she and her doting husband, neither of whom speak Japanese, arrived at their sparsely furnished walkup apartment in Japan’s fourth-largest city. While he threw himself into his teaching job, Cook was left to find her own way, which included doing household chores, heretofore anathema to her. Divided into six sections—laundry, cooking, transportation, shopping, cleaning and intermission—the book unfolds chronologically, covering the couple’s first year there. After bouncing back from the labor-intensive laundry work—they finally got a new washing machine—Cook gave up smoking cigarettes in bed with her morning coffee and found rewarding work of her own, teaching English to women and children at different places around the city. Few readers will be impressed by the author’s present-tense, repetitive, cliché-ridden prose, which is loosely sewn into brief paragraphs and choppy dialogue. For what her book lacks in style and substance, Cook attempts to make up for with her unfiltered opinions and no-holds-barred voice, fashioning her memoir as the equivalent of a printed-out blog. Most of the highlights occur during the heated but always loving exchanges between Cook and her husband, as they figure out how to make each other—and themselves—happy, and take up the evening ritual of meeting on their terrace to rehash their tribulations.