The Buddha in the Attic

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka is a short (129 pages) beautifully written delight of a book. It is not a narrative story in the traditional sense as there is very little dialogue, but the story comes through nicely.

The story line deals with picture brides. These are women who traveled from Japan to San Francisco to marry Japanese men who were already working in the United States. These women came from small towns, farms, big cities. They were sent by families who could not afford to keep them, some came seeking adventure, some escaping or hiding from their past. Their lives are traced from their hopefulness at a fresh start and the excitement of being chosen, through the long, exhausting boat ride across the Pacific to their arrival in San Francisco and the reality of their new lives.

The book describes every aspect of their lives. Love found and lost, hopes realized and dashed, children and the trials of everyday life in a new country. The book ends with the start of war. Chronicling their experiences in a not quite heartbreaking way.

The book is divided into 8 sections, each one more beautifully written that the previous one. Done in an "incantatory" style the book really is more a poem than a narrative. Wonderfully written this book is one of the best I have read in a long time.

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