Lisa Countryman vanishes in Tokyo in 1980, but no one seems to be in a particular hurry to find her. The Amerasian embassy official assigned to her case, Tom Hurley, can’t be bothered, entangled as he is in an unsavory love affair with the wife of a CIA officer. The neurotic Japanese cop in charge of the investigation, Kenzo Ota, is equally preoccupied—ridiculed by his peers, demeaned by his superiors, his life a lonely shambles. Worse, it appears Lisa disappeared into the shadow-world of Tokyo’s sex trade, where a bewildering and often comical variety of clubs cater to every imaginable male fantasy.
The mystery of her disappearance is intertwined with the mystery of her origins as an ainoko, or half-breed. For Lisa, who is half African American and half Asian, alienation and belonging, love and hate, are bound up with race. All the characters’ loyalties are divided—between their countries of origin and their adoptive nationalities, between their society’s traditions and their own sense of justice—as they yearn to find where they truly belong.
Written with understated elegance and peppered with humor, Country of Origin is a literary exploration of the meaning of identity and belonging that unfolds with a pace and daring worthy of its dramatic setting.