A lighthearted debut memoir about a young Colorado mother’s full-on collision with Japanese culture.
In 1962, at the tender age of 24, Keener jumped at the chance to relocate to Tokyo, where her civilian husband, Glen, had been hired to do intelligence work with the U.S. Army. Not one to shy away from adventure, she hit the ground running with two baby boys in her arms and a well-developed sense of fun. It hardly even took the wind out of her sails when, on her first day, she was firmly counseled by Glen’s commanding officer never to ask what her husband was doing: “For sure I would have blabbed stuff I shouldn’t have,” she writes. What follows are her triumphs, mishaps, and gaffes as she spent long periods of time with her boys and acclimated herself to her new country—without so much as a telephone to help with such gargantuan tasks as house-hunting. At one point, she nearly drowned in Tokyo Bay, but she went on to learn to love the Japanese language, sumo wrestling, and local cuisine while also absorbing the niceties of Japanese-style etiquette. Improbably, she eventually became an media star for teaching English on Japanese television: “For criminy sakes, I was as qualified for that position as a ham sandwich,” she cracks. Her career quickly ended, though, when she became pregnant and no longer fit her billing as “a single maiden”: “much to everyone’s relief, I took a leave of absence, bowing out of the job about the time I could no longer bow.” Although Keener devotes more than 400 pages to this frolic down Memory Lane, she displays a jaw-dropping ability to keep readers turning pages. She’s a master of the one-liner, but some of the book’s corny, even archaic-sounding words and phrases (“Phooey!”; “Nanny-nanny-boo-boo!”) may not appeal to everyone. Still, her work here could almost catapult her into the rarefied ranks of such wildly successful writers as Peg Bracken, Majorie Holmes, and Erma Bombeck—even if she has come late to the show.
Endearing, affectionate, and often funny reminiscences.