Carol's Reviews > The Buddha in the Attic

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
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Dec 20, 11

bookshelves: fiction, lifetime-favorites
Recommended to Carol by: Read When the Emperor Was Divine-Free Library of Philadelphia Podcast with author
Read from December 16 to 18, 2011

Julie Otsuka could be called a woman of few words. The Buddha in the Attic comes in at under 150 pages but she can convey more in this tightly written novel than others could in a tome.

Buddha in the Attic left me breathless. From the outset when we first meet these Japanese women, some not even in their teens, leaving their homes and families, sailing away on a ship to a foreign land, clutching pictures of their husbands to be, we know this is going to be a special book. These are the Picture Brides. These are the women Otsuka offers us, culling their stories from journals and interviews, giving them a collective voice as they come to San Francisco in the early 1900's. Not one woman, but all these women are laid before our eyes in eight, spare chapters, each revealing their journey from young innocent girls, to bride, to wife, to mother. Their initial excitement at coming to America is soon dampened by the harsh reality of their new home and the life they will lead. Hard labor in the fruit fields, maids in the rich households of others, prostitution, the women do whatever to survive though this is not guaranteed. From their meager homes, to their communal baths, for these mostly obedient women, time rushes them towards their fate as interment order 9066 approaches. We share in their bewilderment and confusion and want to yank them from what they must accept.

The imagery in Buddha in the Attic is stunning. It reminds me a bit of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. This is one of my favorite books of 2011. I feel like I'm not doing Budda in the Attic justice!
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Chris Earle just finished this and really enjoyed it! :-)


Carol Thanks for the heads-up!


message 3: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen Carol can't wait to read your review on this one!


Carol I'm thinking about it but I can tell you it was superior!


Cynthia Great review. I thought the book was excellent, too, although her first book, When the Emperor Was Divine (IMHO) was even better.


Carol I also loved When the Emperor Was Divine. I think it was the first book I read about the Japanese internment camps. This is fiction at its best, stories that make me seek out the non-fiction history to understand our past.


message 7: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen Loved your review! Now I really have to pick this up! Thanks Carol!


Carol Karen, my thanks to you! You are a thoughtful reviewer too and I love to read your comments.


message 9: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Carol great review. I'm wondering, since you liked it so much, you took away the 5th star. Where did it let you down?


Carol Oh Cynthia, now you are asking the hard questions. The 5 star plan doesn't always work for me. At work we have a star cart. Staff puts books they liked on the cart with a star and their name. I put Buddha in the Attic on the cart. This says I thought it was special.

I think what kept this from being 5 star for me was the repetitive stanzas that at first were interesting and then got a bit tedious.

I think I tend to round up a level in my ratings rather than on the negative side. I do think my feelings can change from day to day and that a book that earned blank stars could be different at another time. I am not giving as many 5 star ratings these days. How many truly amazing books can there be? :)

And so now I'll ask you...what makes the difference between 4 and 5 stars for you?


message 11: by Kats (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kats Carol, this is a wonderful, considered review. Can I just link it onto my page? :-)
I don't think I'll be able to express my thought on the book as well as you did. Thank you for sharing!


Carol @Kats...it's fine with me but I bet you could do it justice!


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