Book Review: Big in Japan

The book I’m reviewing today is kind of special. Want to know why? Because it’s not out yet. But I was privileged because my publisher let me and some fellow authors get a sneak peak.

Big in Japan, by Jennifer Griffith is about a man from Texas who visits Japan. Buck is over six and a half feet tall, overweight, with blond hair and blue eyes. Can you guess what happens when he’s over there? He becomes a sumo wrestler.

I don’t want to give much more than that away, if I can. I think you’ll agree with me that the premise alone is very interesting. As I read this novel, I was highly entertained. The narration is light and witty, and it has an easy flow, making this book a fast read.

But don’t go in expecting only funny entertainment. I wouldn’t call it a “popcorn novel” (I know – that term applies to movies much better, but it’s the term I’ve become accustomed to using). It also carries an intensity. Big in Japan shows the darker side of sumo through Buck’s eyes. We see how the hierarchy of sumo wrestlers works and how it is abused. I couldn’t believe some of the things that the amateur wrestlers had to go through. Most of them are beaten daily, their accommodations make a cow’s barn look luxurious, and they’re supposed to feel honored for being able to participate in this sacred sport.

Of course, what would a book be without a villain? There’s a few different obstacles thrown in Buck’s direction. I thought the most interesting was the Japanese Sumo Association. It was like the equivalent of a government conspiracy. Very nice touch, there, Griffith!

I have never seen a lot of sumo wrestling, so when I picked up this book, I was quickly educated. Griffith was able to highlight the basics of sumo while still entertaining the reader and not making it feel like they are being loaded with too much information. The way in which she wrote the wrestling matches made it feel like I was there watching. I could see everything happening – sometimes in slow motion. It was fabulous!

Griffith also portrayed the culture very well. I could envision what it would be like to visit Tokyo. The people felt real and alive. Even the food sounded interesting. It even made me want to try some of the food. I’m really curious about how Calpis (a drink – you’ll totally laugh at that reference when you read the book) would taste! All of it was there in the background to paint a real picture.

Big In Japan will be released this Saturday, July 28. So if you’re looking for a new book to read, look no further. I promise you will be highly entertained by this depiction of sumo, mystery, self-discovery, and romance. On Goodreads, I’ll be giving this four out of five stars. (For those of you who know what my rating standards are, that’s a big recommend.)

Bonus: I’ve made arrangements for Jennifer Griffith to do a guest blog in August. More details to come!