By Julie Otsuka – Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2011)
Finalist for the 2011 National Book AwardJulie Otsuka’s long awaited follow-up to When the Emperor Was Divine (“To watch Emperor catching on with teachers and students in vast numbers is to grasp what must have happened at the outset for novels like Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird” —The New York Times) is a tour de force of economy and precision, a novel that tells the story of a group of young women brought over from Japan to San Francisco as ‘picture brides’ nearly a century ago.
In eight incantatory sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces their extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photographs of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown land; to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; to their backbreaking work picking fruit in the fields and scrubbing the floors of white women; to their struggles to master a new language and a new culture; to their experiences in childbirth, and then as mothers, raising children who will ultimately reject their heritage and their history; to the deracinating arrival of war. In language that has the force and the fury of poetry, Julie Otsuka has written a singularly spellbinding novel about the American dream.
Julie Otsuka works magic, inventing an unwavering plural voice to illuminate the hidden experience of second-class women, Japanese mail-order brides in 1920s California. The device seems too ambitious at first but quickly yields a textured atmosphere, a sort of immense and important existence unlike anything you’ve ever read. Then you can’t stop reading, greedily absorbing her every precise and haunting observation. And don’t be fooled: Otsuka is as fierce and desperate a commentator on America’s paradoxes and cruelties as the best of them.
“STUNNING, INTENSE AND HAUNTING!”,September 1, 2011
Julie Otsuka takes the reader on a dramatic, heartfelt roller-coaster ride through California in the 1920’s, as she becomes a Master storyteller about the lives of Japanese women, and the symbolic definition of mail-order brides. The horrifying experience about individual lives, during a difficult time in history becomes emotional page-after-page. This book is highly recommended for all American history lovers, and all those in favor of women’s rights. The intense suspense in the stories, combined with the trauma these women endured becomes more powerful as we continue to read on. The setting fits like a glove, the characters come to life, and the stories are deeply moving. This book is beautifully written, and will leave a lasting impression upon all those who read it.