Friday Morning Bookclub

February 22, 2013

The Buddha In The Attic

Filed under: The Buddha In The Attic — susanbright @ 9:28 pm
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Bud playaway

The Buddha in the Attic was written by Julie Otsuka and is about a group of Japanese women who came to California in the 1900’s in hopes of a better life. They were called picture brides and each of them carried with them a photograph of their young handsome husband whom they had yet to meet.  Unbeknownst to them many of these photos were taken twenty some years earlier and held little resemblance to the men they had committed their lives to.

Some of us on the boat were from Kyoto…

Some of us were from Nara……

Some of us were farmer’s daughters from Yamaguchi….

Some of us were from a small mountain hamlet in Yamanashi……

We watch these women as they travel to America full of questions and dreams. As they meet their husbands for the first time and as they struggle with a new language and way of life.  As they toil in the fields, working from sunrise to sunset and as they raise children of their own. Their stories are fascinating and often heart breaking  and I found myself googling picture brides and reading whatever I could find on the subject.


Unfortunately I found the audio book to be somewhat monotonous to listen to.  The Buddha In The Attic is written in the “first persons” if there is such a term and you do not get to know any of the characters individually, but only collectively. It often reads like a series of lists, an unusual style which just didn’t work for me.

We dreamed of new wooden sandals…..

We dreamed we were lovely and tall……

We dreamed we were back in the rice paddies…..

We dreamed of our older and prettier sisters….

The Buddha in the Attic was nominated for several awards including the National Book Award for Fiction (2011) and the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction (2011). Although it was not one of my favorite audio books, it did open my eyes to something new and that is always a good thing. Perhaps this is one of those books better read than listened to.

Japanese Picture Brides: Building a Family through Photographs

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka – Reviews, Discussion



  1. Great review. I totally agree with you. Interesting story but strange format.

    Comment by Angie — February 23, 2013 @ 8:42 am | Reply

  2. First person plural has to be written really well to work – I bet this is better in print.

    Comment by BermudaOnion — February 23, 2013 @ 9:47 am | Reply

  3. Love stories with Japanese immigrants to the USA

    Comment by Betty Jo — February 23, 2013 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

  4. Welcome Bermuda Onion and Betty Jo! i do think I would have enjoyed reading this one than the audio. Very interesting, thoughtful story,,,, but a little monotonous to listen to.

    Comment by Susanbright — February 23, 2013 @ 9:09 pm | Reply

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