The Buddha in the Attic

The Buddha in The Attic - Julie Otsuka Call it 3.5 stars.This is not so much a novel as it is a work of creative nonfiction. There are no specific characters and no real story arc, although it does progress in a roughly chronological fashion. It's written as a collective recitation, sometimes almost like an incantation, using the "we" form. Otsuka shares the experiences of the Japanese picture brides who debarked in San Francisco in the early 1900s, following them up through the time when they were sent to the internment camps during World War II. In that sense, it's almost like a prequel to her first novel, When the Emperor Was Divine. These women were misled by photographs and letters giving them false hope for a life of comfort with a handsome husband in America. The reality was usually a lifetime of backbreaking grunt work, loneliness, shame, and abuse. Easily read in a couple of hours, this slim volume belies the background work required to compile the information it contains. Julie Otsuka searched many sources to give voice to these women and pay tribute to her heritage. Nicely done.