This book was well-timed for me. I didn't pick it up after When The Elephants Dance on purpose - it just happened. But where Elephants was about the J...moreThis book was well-timed for me. I didn't pick it up after When The Elephants Dance on purpose - it just happened. But where Elephants was about the Japanese occupation in the Philippines during WWII, Buddha in the Attic is about the Japanese immigrants in the US - San Francisco and all the way down the California coast - at the start of the war. Having spent some time with Alejandro and the rest of the Filipinos living in fear of the Japanese forces, Buddha is about the Japanese who have nothing to do with war - Japenese women who are living in their own small hells of unrealized dreams and unfulfilled potential, as mail order brides to Japanese working men who came to America long ago.
Buddha is small but potent. The entire book is told in first person plural which is a device that I have not had the pleasure of enjoying until now - it gave the entire story a cohesiveness, and a feeling that an entire chorus of women who shared this experience were telling the story to you. The last chapter, told from first person plural of the American townspeople who had to come to terms with the internment of their Japanese neighbors who had become friends, was a very interesting way to finish the book.
One of the things that struck me about Conquistadora, a book I read recently about the slavery in the turn of the civil war, was how the author made it a point to say that the characters didn't want their names forgotten. Beaten, physically and emotionally, because of the way people treat people, Santiago gave names to all of the people who populated Ana's life. So it was in Otsuka's Buddha, almost an entire chapter describing how the various Japanese women, men, and children left behind their lives when the government came for them - some with fresh laundry, others having paid down to years' worth of life insurance, a little girl with a red rubber ball...
The spate of books I've randomly picked up recently have made me, time and again, almost breathlessly grateful that I don't live in a time of war the likes that these people have seen. The Buddha in the Attic is a great addition to my list.(less)
**spoiler alert** This book had me in the very first chapter. I had tears in my eyes that never actually dried completely the entire time that I was r...more**spoiler alert** This book had me in the very first chapter. I had tears in my eyes that never actually dried completely the entire time that I was reading this novel. It's a story of war and survival, and family, dotted with anecdotes that thread together a constellation of culture and color against the black sky of World War II. I knew very little about the Japanese occupation in the Philippines until this book, and the incandescence in the writing brought everything to vivid and stark life.
I will say that some of the anecdotal stories were more engaging or heartbreaking than others, and the last part of the book that focuses on Domingo felt like a very different book woven in. But Holthe finishes with a flourish by bringing us back to Alejandro's point of view and the blessed end of the occupation, and left me with a very satisfied albeit sad feeling of closure. As a whole, though, I absolutely recommend this book - I couldn't put it down.(less)
I don't know what someone would write about my life, or the era that I live in, but maybe Ana felt the same way. Conqustadora is about Ana and her amb...moreI don't know what someone would write about my life, or the era that I live in, but maybe Ana felt the same way. Conqustadora is about Ana and her ambition, her family, and the coincidental lives that affected hers and whose her life affected. I was surprised at how much I learned about the settling of Puerto Rico and the effect that El Norte (North America - the Lincoln Era) had on the Spanish colonies, and how deeply the characters affected me. The book took me not only through the lives of the title woman and her family, but a number of coincidental characters that refused to go without being named. I cried, gasped, and for the last chapters was dreading when it was going to eventually end. A bold, sweeping, gorgeous novel that is now one of my favorites.(less)
Absolutely gutting. I will admit that it took me the better part of an entire year to finish this book - I'd read a few chapters, put it down, read ma...moreAbsolutely gutting. I will admit that it took me the better part of an entire year to finish this book - I'd read a few chapters, put it down, read many many more, and then eventually I lost the book in an airport somewhere. I finally repurchased it on my Kindle and found where I had left off - 50% of the way - and that last half goes by like water. After making it through the generations of Stephanideses I was surprised to be glad for the context when we finally got to what we came for - the story of Calliope and how she chooses to live her life. The last chapter moves so swiftly, it's almost stunningly sad and quietly hopeful. Desdemona is a force of nature even when she's absent from its pages.(less)
I read the shit out of this book between San Francisco and LA and finished it somewhere over Nevada? I laughed out loud and found her much more access...moreI read the shit out of this book between San Francisco and LA and finished it somewhere over Nevada? I laughed out loud and found her much more accessible than dear ol' Tina Fey. Funny Indian girls unite! Mindy is our spirit animal!(less)