No Other Tale The Same: The Buddha in the Attic

Julie Otsuka's style in The Buddha in the Attic feels like a breath of fresh air. Otsuka has chosen to depict Japanese women coming to San Francisco as mail order brides in the early 1900's and then being accused of being traitors to America not as one single tale, but as several first-person voices.

It's an adjustment as a reader. On the one hand, it's amazing that in a short 129 pages, Otsuka manages to share so many stories. It also makes an already sad story very chilling. Yet there's no central character to hold onto. As soon as one name is mentioned, it's never mentioned again. There's also no central plot. The story is instead broken up into different phases of life these women experienced. Otsuka writes about the boat ride over, the women's first nights with their husbands, encounters with white Americans, having babies, watching their babies grow up, and eventually being taken away from their homes. A spare few stories are happy, yet the majority are devastating.

Since there is no central plot, Otsuka's book reminds me of one long poem, lyrical, haunting and evocative. After hearing all these voices in my head I want to find a historical fiction novel about this subject and time period so I can hang onto onto one voice and one story. Does anyone have any suggestions?