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The Buddha in the Attic (Pen/Faulkner Award - Fiction) Paperback – March 20, 2012
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Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
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“Exquisitely written. . . . An understated masterpiece…that unfolds with great emotional power. . . . Destined to endure.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
“Arresting and alluring. . . . A novel that feels expansive yet is a magical act of compression.” —Chicago Tribune
“A stunning feat of empathetic imagination and emotional compression, capturing the experience of thousands of women.” —Vogue
“Otsuka’s incantatory style pulls her prose close to poetry. . . . Filled with evocative descriptive sketches…and hesitantly revelatory confessions.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A fascinating paradox: brief in span yet symphonic in scope, all-encompassing yet vivid in its specifics. Like a pointillist painting, it’s composed of bright spots of color: vignettes that bring whole lives to light in a line or two, adding up to a vibrant group portrait.” —The Seattle Times
“Mesmerizing. . . . Told in a first-person plural voice that feels haunting and intimate, the novel traces the fates of these nameless women in America. . . . Otsuka extracts the grace and strength at the core of immigrant (and female) survival and, with exquisite care, makes us rethink the heartbreak of eternal hope. Though the women vanish, their words linger.” —More
“Spare and stunning. . . . By using the collective ‘we’ to convey a constantly shifting, strongly held group identity within which distinct individuals occasionally emerge and recede, Otsuka has created a tableau as intricate as the pen strokes her humble immigrant girls learned to use in letters to loved ones they’d never see again.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“With great daring and spectacular success, she has woven countless stories gleaned from her research into a chorus of the women’s voices, speaking their collective experience in a plural ‘we,’ while incorporating the wide range of their individual lives. . . . The Buddha in the Attic moves forward in waves of experiences, like movements in a musical composition. . . . By its end, Otsuka’s book has become emblematic of the brides themselves: slender and serene on the outside, tough, weathered and full of secrets on the inside.” —Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
“A gorgeous mosaic of the hopes and dreams that propelled so many immigrants across an ocean to an unknown country. . . . Otsuka illuminates the challenges, suffering and occasional joy that they found in their new homeland. . . . Wrought in exquisite poetry, each sentence spare in words, precise in meaning and eloquently evocative, like a tanka poem, this book is a rare, unique treat. . . . Rapturous detail. . . . A history lesson in heartbreak.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“[Otsuka] brazenly writes in hundreds of voices that rise up into one collective cry of sorrow, loneliness and confusion. . . . The sentences are lean, and the material reflects a shameful time in our nation’s past. . . . Otsuka winds a thread of despair throughout the book, haunting the reader at every chapter. . . . Otsuka masterfully creates a chorus of the unforgettable voices that echo throughout the chambers of this slim but commanding novel, speaking of a time that no American should ever forget.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Daring. . . . Frequently mesmerizing. . . . Otsuka has the moves of cinematographer, zooming in for close-ups, then pulling back for wide lens group shots. . . . [Otsuka is] a master of understatement and apt detail. . . . Her stories seem rooted in curiosity and a desire to understand.” —Bookpage
“Precise, focused. . . . Penetrating. . . . See it and you’ll want to pick it up. Start reading it and you won’t want to put it down. . . . A boldly imagined work that takes a stylistic risk more daring and exciting than many brawnier books five times its size. Even the subject matter is daring. . . . Specific, clear, multitudinous in its grasp and subtly emotional.” —The Huffington Post
About the Author
Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. She is the author of the novel When the Emperor Was Divine and a recipient of the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in New York City.
Top Customer Reviews
This is our first official book review. We chose "Buddha" before it was released - it was not yet on any top ten or top 100 list, bucket list, or best-seller list - lists we often choose from. There were no reviews. We entered our reading with no pre-existing sway. Some loved "Buddha" - others not so much. The book provoked great debate. It was a book we actually discussed at length. Together we share, in a less-than-perfect attempt at "collective voice":
The happy hausfrau cum MSW, LCSW loved this work of poetry. "The form punched the story beautifully: basic humanity crumbles in the face of fear, war sucks, three pages of rape is a drop in ocean of what women have suffered in and out war time. Each paragraph (stanza?) told a hundred stories. This one small book told volumes of tales in plain, rhythmic language; like the breath and beating hearts of each individual she describes, but collectively! And what about the title of the book? And the single sentence in the text that refers to it?? Is the Buddha just a little piece of identity hidden but preserved, watching over the house? Or a representation "self/spirt" hidden away, denied, stifled in the dusty attic with with other ghosts? Identity and self quietly preserved and celebrated? Or a God demoted, obsolete and even dangerous to recognize in a new land?" 4 Stars
The marketing consultant couldn't get past page pp. 19 to 21 and tried three times.Read more ›
However, the narrative style, using the "collective first person", was for me the exact opposite of a real portrayal of character and obviously lacking in a sequential organization of action. Indeed, if I had been asked to define this writing, I would have called it a stream-of-consciousness description of the collective experience of young Japanese women in pre-WWII California, a sort of poetic group memoir.
I am also forced to conclude that the incidents described (or perhaps "briefly referenced" would be a better term) are NOT fictional, but the composites of actual experiences. Now I realize that novels can indeed present such actual experiences, and often do, but the genre I recognize is very different from this style of presentation. In general, I found this narrative intriguing, though. The writing style is fascinating, and as already mentioned, a totally new literary experience for me, which therefore defies definition in the standard formats with which I am familiar.
One further comment needs to be made. The last section of this book, which deals with the circumstances in which the Japanese found themselves at the start of the War, is exceptionally well handled. The narrative style here portrays the incredible confusion of the situation and the cruelty of the treatment meted out to them in a magnificently under-stated way.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Heartbreaking, beautifully written, and important - a dark chapter in America's history. I couldn't put this book down, it moved me more than any other book has in a long time.Published 2 hours ago by Amazon Customer
Loved it. Quick read. The only reason it isn't a 5-star is because I felt like it ended too quickly/abruptlyPublished 4 days ago by Kristy Snow
This book is one beautiful poem that depicts such injustice done to he Japanese people. Beautifully crafted historical insight. Loved it.Published 4 days ago by Ana
Using the "We" voice seems to have excited some readers who think that by doing so, the author manages to speak for all immigrant women. Read morePublished 23 days ago by M. R. Paulsen
Very interesting in narrative style, in first-person plural mostly--"we" did many things, occadionally switching to third-person "they. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Lindon
This book provides good insight into the plight of Japanese Americans during WWII.Published 1 month ago by C J Schloetzer
This book was a book club choice, and again, I feel like its focus was for an elitist group. Another book that received accolades, yet failed to deliver for me. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Denise Baer