Jillian Goldberg's Reviews > The Buddha in the Attic

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
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Aug 08, 12

Read in August, 2012

I read this small book in an afternoon. It is an extraordinary work; I will probably buy it so that I can share with friends and dip into it again. It is more of a long prose poem than a novel, since the narrative does not select any one protagonist or group of people, but rather surveys an unusual period in time that swept a whole community along with it. The book begins by painting the experiences of Japanese "brides" brought to California to marry Japanese men at the turn of the century. The disparate characters, backgrounds, expectations and experiences of this flood of women, and how their lives turn out, is epic, to say the very least. We view their feelings, thoughts and physical hardships almost as if we are surveying a scene from above, glimpsing many lives simultaneously, swept along by their destinies which are described in just a few words, a fleeting moment here and there. The scope of the book continues through the years as the women come to grips with their new lives in many different ways, some in cities and suburbs, others in remote valleys and farmlands, worked to the bone. The book culminates with the rounding up and deportation of the Japanese communities in California. Once again, the women are silent victims of historical imperatives and they are powerless to change their fate. Man's inhumanity to man and the role that women are assigned in this historical perspective, leaves much to ponder.
The prose has a rhythm and beauty that is breathtaking. The skill with which the author conveys so much with so few words, is amazing.
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