It’s been a week since I finished reading about Buck Cooper’s escapades in Japan as a sumo wrestler. I miss Buck.
Buck Cooper is from Texas. His father is an inventor of pharmaceuticals, and the whole family ends up in Japan while he tries to promote the product that they’ve mortgaged their home and the family’s 600-acre ranch for.
Buck is a big guy in height and width, but suffers from the invisibility factor. It’s something that I think endears him to the reader, and makes him likeable.
In Japan, Buck is accidentally thrust into the limelight as the comic relief during a sumo match. He isn’t awful at it, and the crowd adores him. It’s a new experience for Buck—having people accept him—and having people accept him because he’s big. And so, against his parents’ wishes, and when the opportunity arises, Buck accepts an offer by one of the sumo wrestling stables with big plans of living the celebrity life.
His parents are already on the plane to Texas when Buck discovers the true life of an amateur sumo wrestler. He gets worked to a frazzle, beaten, spit on, and lives the life of a veritable slave. In spite of all his trials, Buck is determined not to quit, and has high hopes that a certain beautiful Japanese girl will fall in love with him and consent to be his bride.
Then Buck gets beaten behind an alleyway. And, after an important win, someone attempts to poison him. He’s attacked by the Japanese mafia, and Buck’s best friend lands in the hospital with a slashed throat. But it’s the threats against his parents that threaten to crumble his resolve and his integrity.
Big in Japan is written in such a way that the reader is also able to experience Japan—from their streets, to the beautiful gardens, to their funny food-vending machines where a hungry tourist can get almost everything except a soda and a bag of chips. One of my favorite scenes was Buck’s first experience with the public bath.
This is 2012’s feel-good novel of the year. I give Big in Japan 5-stars.