Tuesday, September 17, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "The Buddha in the Attic"

The Buddha in the Attic
By Julie Otsuka
Copyright 2011
Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher
Historical Fiction

A poignant look at Japanese "picture brides" brought to San Francisco in the early 20th century. These girls and women were married to Japanese immigrants without ever having met, only seeing a picture of the man they married, then leaving their families and setting sail for the United States and a new life without knowing anything that was in store for them. 

The book is written in a beautiful sing-song fashion that feels like a poem.  It is the story of numerous women, not just one, and gives an all-encompassing description of the lives these women traveled into.  The women who arrived only to find the picture they'd been sent was 20 years old...or belonged to another man.  The women who arrived to find lives as migrant workers, instead of the beautiful homes with white picket fences that their husbands had described to them.  They arrived to find harsh lives and sacrifice awaiting them, instead of the opportunity they had been promised.  They arrived to find harsh judgment from their new countrymen, and found it easier to live in secluded areas surrounded by their own.

Eventually the women experience childbirth, the good and the bad that go along with it. They experience the joy of motherhood and the grief of lost children. They also experience condemnation due to the color of their skin and shape of their eyes when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor.  And, eventually, they disappear into nameless internment camps across the country.

The book is written in the first person, "Some of us chanted Buddhist sutras while we worked and the hours flew by like minutes," "We simply worked. That was all," or "We were the best breed of worker they had ever hired in their lives."  Each sentence describing another person in the "we", another experience, another feeling.

I liked the style of this one, the emotions it brought up, and the bits of history from a time in our country we would be hard-pressed to truly understand.  A quick and heart-felt read.  Good for a book club, or just a rainy Saturday afternoon. 


No comments:

Post a Comment