February 22, 2010

Book review: Hidden Buddhas (Liza Dalby)

Anthropologist and author Liza Dalby skillfully blends Eastern and Western culture in her latest book, Hidden Buddhas: A Novel of Karma and Chaos. An entertaining blend of history and mystery, the author skillfully incorporates her studies of Japanese culture and religion through the characters of her book, both Eastern and Western.

Philip Metcalfe, an American graduate student in Japan studying Shingon Buddhism, finds himself embroiled in a centuries-old legend of mappō, the predicted end of the world through destruction of the hibutsu, or “hidden buddhas,” statues imbued with power and strategically placed throughout Japan in order to protect the world. As each of these hibutsu is destroyed, the world edges closer to chaos and destruction.

Dalby’s expertise on Japanese culture strengthens the novel with enriching detail that does not slow the pace of the story nor does it detract from the narrative. Fans of religious/spiritual mysteries or those with an interest in Japanese culture, especially of Japanese Buddhism, would especially enjoy this book, though this book can certainly be enjoyed by anyone. From Stone Bridge Press and available at your local, independent bookstore. (Shop local, shop independent, and tell ’em you saw it on Elephant Journal… it makes a difference!)

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