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The Buddha in the Attic

Friday, November 4, 2011

Title: The Buddha in the Attic
Author: Julie Otsuka
Pages: 144
Genre: Fiction
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.

12 comments:

Zibilee said...

I just got this one, and can't wait for the time to read it. It seems like such a great story, and the fact that her characters are so lifelike and give the real lowdown on their lives really makes me excited to get to this one. Fantastic review today, Jenny! I will have to let you know what I think of it!

reviewsbylola said...

I have this one on my kindle and am excited to read it. The subject matter is so compelling.

Marce said...

I am so intrigued. The story seems rather short for impact but sounds like it was executed well.

I think I will buy this one, different cultures and beautiful writing, plus I like 1st person.

Lovely review.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

Oh, I want to read this one. I really enjoy books that show cultural divides. Adding this to my wish list. I'll probably download it when I get home.

Ti said...

It's not even 150 pages! Did you find it to be too brief?

Jenners said...

I've never read a book about a mail order bride. I think it would be an interesting topic for a novel!

Jenny said...

Heather: it's a quick read, and I think you'll really like it!

Lola: this was definitely compelling. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Marce: It was really short but I did feel like it had everything in it that it needed!

Jennifer: Haha, did you download it already? This is definitely a good one that shows that cultural divide.

Ti: it's definitely super short, but I actually thought it was the perfect length!

Jenners: I don't think I had either up until this! It could really have applied to any women that immigrated to the U.S. though.

Booksnyc said...

Another great choice for the Immigrant Stories Challenge (I seem to be finding lots in my feed reader today). This sounds like an interesting story - I am not sure how I would feel about the first person plural but would be willing to try it. Great review!

Meg @ A Bookish Affair said...

I got this book from Netgalley. I'm definitely looking forward to reading it!

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I wasn't really aware of all of the finalists this year. This one sounded interesting. I wonder how the title ties into the story.

bermudaonion said...

A friend of mine was asking me about this book and I hadn't even heard of it. After reading your review, I want to get hold of a copy pronto!

softdrink said...

It's the content that's similar...the style is quite different, although both books are very short.

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