Haiku epic

This slim novel reads more like a prose poem, as The Buddha in the Attic follows Japanese “picture brides” from the time they receive the photographs of their husbands-to-be in America through the coming of the war and their internment in concentration camps. The final section, though, is a bit of a tone break—it moves from the “we” of the Japanese immigrant women to the “we” of the white Americans who wonder about the missing, interned Japanese, with a hint of compassion that history doesn’t really support. The power of this novel by California native Julie Otsuka—her second, after the wonderful When the Emperor Was Divine—is in the co-mingled narrative voice of the women, including their disappointment at how little their husbands resembled the photographs and how different America was from what they imagined. This is a fine, poetic book; the epic is condensed, like a haiku.