Getting Oriented

Wally Wood. CreateSpace (www.createspace.com), $12.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-4635-2528-6
An American tour guide to Japan in charge of a handful of motley, clueless compatriots finds his charges' eccentricities touching in this nicely noisy, descriptive novel. At 55, Phil Fletcher, a recently downsized advertising salesman from Katonah, N.Y., finds himself shepherding tourists around Japan for two weeks on behalf of the Zarin World of Travel Agency—a not unwelcome distraction from his grief at the untimely death of his wife, Helen, to whom he writes a running letter on his laptop when in his hotel room. As Phil dispenses Japanese history to tour groups, visits temples, and tries not to lose anyone on the trains, he becomes involved in the lives of the tourists, including an elderly couple who have come to Japan to kill themselves, a sex-obsessed husband who requests Phil translate an erotic comic book, and a hapless woman who is being drugged by her Japanese boyfriend. Wood ably manipulates his awkward Americans around Japanese tourist sites, and the reader finds his characters, as Fletcher does, winningly humorous and sympathetic.
Reviewed on: 10/17/2011
Release date: 07/01/2011
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