The Buddha in the Attic - Julie Otsuka
The main character of The Buddha in the Attic (Knopf, $22) is “we.” In her remarkable second novel, Julie Otsuka, author of the acclaimed When the Emperor was Divine, uses the first-person plural to tell the story of the hundreds of Japanese picture brides, ages 12 to 37, who came to America in the early 1900s. The book is divided into sections focusing not on different protagonists, but on stages of the community’s life cycle: there’s the crossing, the meeting of the husband, work, childbirth, the second generation, more work, and World War II. Otsuka conveys the diverse experience of the group from its ongoing struggle as an “invisible world” within the mainstream culture to its literal disappearance after Pearl Harbor. This makes for a rich tapestry, and the events gain emotional depth from a rhythmic, incantatory prose built of lists and litanies, names and concrete details.