How does one describe The Buddha In The Attic? It is a narration of the collected voices of young women brought over from Japan to San Fransisco as brides nearly a century ago.
The Buddha In The Attic traces their lives as they travel by boat (I wonder what it will be like to live in the states?), meet their husbands (he is not rich as I was believed he would be!), face uncertain futures (what will become of us?), becoming new wives (what does he expect of me?), working the fields (other men will not leave us alone), mastering a new language (do I pretend still not to understand?), child birth (what if my child is born under the wrong sign?) and eventually to war.
It really is hard to explain The Buddha In The Attic, which is really why prior to listening to this on audio… I still did not fully get what it was about even by the synopsis. What I did know:
1. The title made me want to know more
2. The cover led me to think of things hiding, secrets of the unknown…
So here I am after listening to this short audio book (4 cd’s) and now kind of basking in the experience.
The Buddha in the Attic as narrated by Samantha Quan and Carrington MacDuffie is told as a collective “we” and never an “I”. There is no sole character. In 8 chapters a different aspect of Japanese immigrant life is unfolded for us to view in the raw:
“Home was a bed of straw in John Lyman’s barn alongside his prize horses and cows. Home was a corner of the washhouse at Stockton’s Cannery Ranch. Home was a bunk in a rusty boxcar in Lompoc. Home was an old chicken coop in Willows that the Chinese had lived in before us. Home was a flea-ridden mattress in a corner of a packing shed in Dixon. Home was a bed of hay atop three apple crates beneath an apple tree.”
and so on… each chapter reading out like that, a description of their life in this new world and then told in 20 or more different ways. Yes, at first it was a little hard to follow, my bookish mind kept waiting for the story, but the sharing of information, IS the story. And as this went on, from having children, to losing children, to what they did with the children, and so on….
I found a rhythm.
It is safe to say this is poetry.
It is raw. It is real. At times it is painful. At times it will make you mad. In the end… I find that I am better for having listened to it and I an appreciate the collective whole.
No I would not seek out this style of writing, but a sampling of it like I just had is good. I am glad I listened to it over reading it. The narration is beautiful, the words, and the undertones, I thought were brilliantly read.
Side note: It is interesting that I am also listening to Shanghai Girls at this time and the stories and time frames are similar.
Here are a few other reviews from great bloggers:
Borrowed from my library!