Friday, November 4, 2011
Author: Julie Otsuka
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday (Random House)
Pub. Date: August 23, 2011
I was excited to read this because of all the rave reviews I had seen around. Then it made the list of finalists of the national book award, and since I was already interested in reading this I went ahead and picked it up. Apparently, Otsuka is the author of well-received book, When the Emperor was Divine, which I haven't read. A lot of what I have read about these two books say that book and this book are similar, though I don't know if it's just the content or the style so I can't compare.
The Buddha in the Attic tells the story of a group of Japanese women who come the United States just before the second world war. The women are mail order brides on the way to meet their husbands and live the "American Dream". Unfortunately, life doesn't turn out the way they dreamed. They talk about the first nights with their husbands, who, by the way, are nothing like what they advertised. They talk about working for and interaction with white people. They discuss having children and the ways in which their children grow up, taking on the American culture. And then they talk about the ways in which they and other Japanese persons are forced out of their homes and communities.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The writing was beautiful and the content was so human, authentic, and insightful. Otsuka told a story about a group of women that all other women, regardless of race or ethnicity, can relate to in one way or another. One of the things I really loved about this book is also the same thing that might turn off a lot of others. The story was narrated in first person plural form. This method provided a unique but very effective way to tell the story and get the messages across. But I'll admit it wore on me every once in a while. I think some readers who prefer more traditional novels might not like this. But it was otherwise a great way to tell the story about a group of people that really applied to the group as a whole rather than being that different for each individual. It's a short book that makes quite an impact in it's few pages.
I definitely recommend The Buddha in the Attic and I hope to get to Otsuka's first book one of these days.