The Buddha in the Attic

Julie Otsuka
Julie Otsuka's beautiful novel tells the story of the large wave of women who emigrated to America from Japan as mail-order brides for Japanese men. Each chapter is written as if from the viewpoint of someone who witnessed it. The fears, hopes, and joys of the women are depicted and the reality of their situations to come. It is like hearing many voices relating their experiences.
Women, who had been brought up in houses with servants, were finding themselves having to pick fruit in the hot California sun. For many, their prospective husbands lied to them and sent pictures of other, more wealthy Japanese men, to represent themselves. The women have no money to leave, having given the money to their families still in Japan.
The time period is the early twentieth century until the middle of the second World War when most of the Japanese in California had to to go to the Internment Camps. Then the chapter changes to the voices of the white women left behind who notice their absence and wonder where they have gone.
In this slim novel is a wealth of experience, with much to be learned about the women who came over with such hopes for a new and wonderful life. How they had to survive and endure is the beauty of the story.

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