The Men in My Country
“In this exquisite travel memoir, Marilyn Abildskov unpacks her bags and allows herself to be transformed by all she tastes and touches in Japan: the persimmons, pencil boxes, origami birds, and men—three in particular. The result is an intimate, sensual portrait of a woman and a place. I was enthralled and transported from start to finish.”—Natalia Rachel Singer, author of Scraping By in the Big Eighties
“Marilyn Abildskov is a writer of sheer beauty and rare atmosphere. Each word feels hand-carved from the broken shards of her own life. The Men in My Country is a pathway into longing ‘for ordinary love, for ordinary joy.’ We are brought into soulful dialogue regarding the nature of wanting versus the nature of needing. Japan becomes a rich landscape of love and we accept this exquisite book as the gift of experience. When T. S. Eliot speaks of transient beauty born out of sorrow, he was foreshadowing the writing of Marilyn Abildskov.”—Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge, Leap, and Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert
In the early 1990s, at the watershed age of thirty, Marilyn Abildskov decided she needed to start over. She accepted an offer to move from Utah to Matsumoto, Japan, to teach English to junior high school students. “All I knew is that I had to get away and when I stared at my name on the Japanese contract, the squiggles of katakana, my name typed in English sturdily beneath, I liked how it looked. As if it—as if I—were translated, transformed, emerging now as someone new.”
The Men in My Country is the story of an American woman living and loving in Japan. Satisfied at first to observe her exotic surroundings, the woman falls in love with the place, with the light, with the curve of a river, with the smell of bonfires during obon, with blue and white porcelain dishes, with pencil boxes, and with small origami birds. Later, struggling for a deeper connection—“I wanted the country under my skin”—Abildskov meets the three men who will be part of her transformation and the one man with whom she will fall deeply in love.
A travel memoir offering an artful depiction of a very real place, The Men in My Country also covers the terrain of a complex emotional journey, tracing a geography of the heart, showing how we move to be moved, how in losing ourselves in a foreign place we can become dangerously—and gloriously—undone.