Jeff Jensen
August 15, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Mr. Foreigner

Current Status
In Season
Matthew Kneale

We gave it a B+

Memo to twentysomethings tempted to skip overseas to lose their alienated selves in the intoxicating mystery of an alien culture: Don’t. It never ends well. Further proof comes in Mr. Foreigner, the first novel by the acclaimed British writer of 2000’s English Passengers just now making its U.S. debut. Daniel Thayne is a drifty Westerner teaching English in Japan, saddled with an emotional quagmire of a girlfriend, Keiko, a divorcee fond of stuffed animals and Mickey Mouse socks. But just when Thayne resolves to extricate himself, Keiko’s faintly sinister father demands that he make an honest woman of her. Twists ensue, though plot is the least of this brisk, brief novel’s pleasures — Kneale’s acerbic wit, pinpoint observations of Japanese culture, and potboiler pacing are the stars here. A small gem flawed only by a portentously somber ending, Mr. Foreigner reveals an author destined to go places.

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