The Buddha In The Attic to my library queue because I was looking for Asian historical fiction. Additionally, The Buddha In The Attic also talks about the immigrant experience which I'm starting to actively seek out. This slim novel doesn't disappoint.
I knew going into The Buddha In The Attic that it was the story of young women immigrating from Japan to America to become wives to Japanese-American men after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. But this isn't the story of one woman or even two. Otsuka describes the women as a group and uses the pronoun "we" to describe the women's experiences. By using "we" it made it seem like they all experienced childbirth in the back of their husband's store, or they all were given an old ratty sweater by their employer. When one experienced joy, they all experienced joy. When it was pain, they all felt it.
The story starts with the women on the boat crossing the Pacific to meet their husbands. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of their life: work, children, marriage. The the war comes and the Japanese are targeted, enemies. The women experience fear, waiting for their husbands to be taken, being labeled traitors. Then the internment camps come and the women describe gathering their belongings, selling their businesses, preparing to leave, hoping to come back. The last chapter was written presumably by the Caucasians still living in the areas the Japanese had been removed from. This chapter talks about life without the Japanese. I found that chapter to be heartbreaking.
Overall, I was impressed with The Buddha In The Attic. Highly recommended. Others who shared their thoughts on The Buddha In The Attic: Devourer of Books, Life Wordsmith, Book By Book, and For The Love of Bookshops.
This was my third read for the 2013 Historical Reading Challenge.