I was definitely behind the times in getting to When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka, so I am happy to report that I have already read and enjoyed The Buddha in the Attic which was just released this fall.
Otsuka's new novel is another slim volume of work, this time telling the story of Japanese women who came to the United States to marry Japanese men, thinking they were wealthy and successful. What they found were men who hired someone to write letters to these women for them, who married them and then subjected them to a life of hard work in the fields or as maids. While Otsuka's novel does not tell the story of any one woman, it is the story of every woman, the different ways in which their lives played out - some as mothers, some happily married, many not, their experiences here in America. Later as these women have children who grow up in the United States, who are truly "American," World War II breaks out and the Japanese are forced to internment camps.
The Buddha in the Attic was a sad story to me, although I don't know that that was Otsuka's intent. There were so many struggles in the lives of these women. So many hardships, and then despite everything they fought for, they were taken to internment camps and treated as criminals. Yet, I did not sense bitterness in these women.
Otsuka's writing is beautiful and The Buddha in the Attic is a moving read.