Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
A New York Time Notable Book
A gorgeous novel by the celebrated author of When the Emperor Was Divine that tells the story of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. In eight unforgettable sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war. Once again, Julie Otsuka has written a spellbinding novel about identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times.
A group of young women from Japan are on a boat headed for San Francisco to meet their new husbands. They are picture brides, arranged marriages by a matchmaker Little did they know that the photo’s they had been sent in Japan were 20 years old and the beautifully written letters they received from their new “American husbands” weren’t from them at all. They were from people hired to write the letters that were full of promises but all lies. The men were not teachers, bankers and other career men but instead simple roaming farm hands.
The first night they were met at the boat, their new husbands walked them gently and carefully until under the cover of darkness in hotel rooms were the sexual contact was rough, painful, and indecent. Their hopes and dreams for a better life in America were soon dashed.
The women were living in labour camps in the hot dusty hills of Sacramento, the Imperial, and the San Joaquin and worked side-by-side with their new husbands. The women worked the land, picked grapes, pulled weeds, picked strawberries, dug up potatoes, and sorted green beans. When winter came they bundled up their clothing and waited for the next wagon and traveled on.
If their husbands had told them the truth in their letters that they were not silk traders and teachers that did not live in many roomed houses but tents and in barns and outdoors in fields, they never would have come.
They eventually knuckled down and did the best they could, eventually garnering jobs that were a bit better working in people’s homes. Soon the war would break out and things were about to drastically change.
An excellent novel!!