Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Review: Budda in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Source: Personal Ebook
Buddha in the Attic is a story of a generation of women who came to America, and married men who they never met, men who had immigrated some time earlier. Japanese picture brides arriving in California to marry the men of their dreams in the early 20th century. Women held tight to a picture, a few letters, battling being seasick and homesick but hopeful to undock and live a perfect life. A better life than what they would have had in Japan. While the women boast about their husband’s wealthy status, they share their concerns and fears about marriage. When they arrive, they know they can never return home but are shocked by how their lives are unfolding. Many of the men are not at all what they were portrayed to be. They become overworked field laborers, servers, washing women, and cooks. While some accept their new life and are happy to be in America, others wish they had never come and could return home. The lowest status at home would have been to become a server, and that is exactly what many were forced to do.
Buddha in the Attic is written in the first person plural, a collective cast of transient characters who tell a raw and shocking tale. In spite of the unique writing style, this novel is very readable and likable. It might not be for everyone, but readers who are willing to take a chance on a different writing style, will want to give this one a try. This is a story that captures readers from the beginning, and holds tight until the end. While there is not one character to feel invested in, there is a collective voice that captures readers. Otsuka’s beautiful prose brings the story alive and conveys many of the heartbreaks that these women faced.
Initially the writing style threw me off, but once I began to understand how Otsuka was approaching the novel, I began to enjoy it. I accepted that I wouldn’t get to know one character, but a collective character. This is a very short novel, and I quickly became absorbed in these harrowing stories. There is no main character, but I felt as if there was one. This was a wonderful, uniquely written novel that I would highly recommend.