“The Buddha in the Attic” by Julie Otsuka – A book review

This is her second novel which won the Pen Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2012. Julie Otsuka, a Japanese American herself, writes historical fiction of Japanese Americans. In this book, she wrote about them emigrating from their homeland to America in 1900s before Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. She traced their lives up to the disappearance of Japanese during the War.

The novel was written from the perspective of Japanese women and their link with people around them, husbands, children, neighbours. It starts with them getting on boats that set sail to America. They come over to meet their future husbands, not knowing what future awaits them.

Not like any other fiction, there is no central figure with stories revolving around her. It is a collation of many Japanese women’s accounts of different experiences all at once. It tells of lives as immigrants in foreign land, of sad tales and difficulties in adjusting to an English-speaking nation. It tells of behavioural norms of Japanese, courteous, gracious, stoic, religiously faithful, reticent.

Julie Otsuka was good at bringing out emotions and made me feel for these Japanese immigrants, from the time of setting sail right up to the time when they left their residences during the War. The book does not feel like a fiction but more like depiction of history. The writer did research of several books to bring us the events of that period.

A good read for her literary ability. No difficult words to stumble you. Clear and simple style is the writer’s hallmark. The title of the fiction is not what one would imagine it would be. It is a metaphor of Japanese immigrants adapting to hush reality of lives in America with peace in their hearts and faith.

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