In her widely admired debut novel, When the Emperor Was Divine, Otsuka portrayed the internment of Japanese -Americans during World War II. Here she retreats a few steps, following a group of Japanese women who travel to early 1900s San Francisco as mail-order brides. Given the success of Emperor, it's no surprise that this new work is getting a 75,000-copy first printing, a reading group guide, and a seven-city tour. I'm looking forward to this one.
Finalist for the 2011 National Book Award
Julie Otsuka’s long awaited follow-up toWhen the Emperor Was Divine(“To watchEmperorcatching on with teachers and students in vast numbers is to grasp what must have happened at the outset for novels likeLord of the FliesandTo Kill a Mockingbird” —The New York Times) is a tour de force of economy and precision, a novel that tells the story of a group of young women brought over from Japan to San Francisco as ‘picture brides’ nearly a century ago.
In eight incantatory sections,The Buddha in the Attictraces their extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photographs of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown l∧ to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; to their backbreaking work picking fruit in the fields and scrubbing the floors of white women; to their struggles to master a new language and a new culture; to their experiences in childbirth, and then as mothers, raising children who will ultimately reject their heritage and their history; to the deracinating arrival of war.
In language that has the force and the fury of poetry, Julie Otsuka has written a singularly spellbinding novel about the American dream.