Friday, February 10, 2017

Review: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

Synopsis: A gorgeous novel by the celebrated author of When the Emperor Was Divine that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. In eight unforgettable sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war. Once again, Julie Otsuka has written a spellbinding novel about identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times. (from the back of the book)

Review: It’s hard to explain the plot of this book; it has none and yet, it’s a story unlike any other. Told in First Person Plural, the book is divided into eight chapters: Come, Japanese / First Night / Whites / Babies / The Children / Traitors / Last Day / A Disappearance. Each chapter covers a particular part of life, a gathering of many experiences, told by the voices of many women. First, the women came over from Japan as picture brides, crowded into great steam liners. From there, we follow them through the first night of their marriage, their life working in America, birthing babies and the people these babies would grow into. Then, Pearl Harbor, and the internment of the Japanese. There is more pain then joy in these chapters, these voices, these stories. This is not a pleasant book. There is too much reality to be so. There is joy, but it is laced with suffering, with resignation, with hardship and sacrifice. Otsuka has given a voice to people whose story would be lost otherwise. Worth readying, particularly in today’s volatile social and political climate. The lives of these women have much to share and much to teach. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: Prix Femina √Čtranger 2012, France , Pen/Faulker Award for Fiction, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-74442-5
Year Published: 2011
Date Finished: 2-6-2017
Pages: 129

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