Reviewed by Garret Rose

Julie Otsuka, author of When the Emperor Was Divine, weaves history with fiction in this hauntingly beautiful portrayal of American life from the viewpoint of female Japanese immigrants who came to the United States with the promise of a better life. After a long boat trip in difficult conditions, the women find out that they have been duped. The dreams of nostalgia come crashing down as their pre-arranged husbands are not what they were promised. As the assortment of narratives told by a single narrator become interweaved, one is left with a cruel picture painted of mistreatment, neglect, and sometimes joy. Going through the journey with the countless voices gives an aura of defying hopelessness. This is a journey of the soul and once The Buddha in the Attic is opened, it is difficult to endure reading, but even more difficult to put down.

Otsuka gives the reader an introspective to the suffering of the Japanese women, some of whom came to America by force. Otsuka also paints a vivid picture of the struggles and mistreatment of the Japanese during the time of World War II. The Buddha in the Attic is an excellent companion to the biography Farewell to Manzanar, by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. With the gritty, but elegant, composing of the narratives, the reader will find themselves in a dichotomous world of ugly beauty and horrific ecstasy. This is a book that everyone should read either for learning a piece of history that often goes neglected or for a picture into the soul of tragic beauty.

Rating: 4.5/5

Garret loves literature! He is creating the Vernal Journal for his students as well as anyone else that is interested in literature – be it fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, or even miscellaneous! Garret’s goal is to share, review and make connections to the world and each other.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Knopf. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.