Soul Searching, With a Touch of Buddhism

Leilanie Stewart’s The Buddha’s Bone is a story of self-discovery, set in Japan. The main character, Kimberly, has come to Japan teach at a private English language school. But she arrives in this new country with a lot of baggage, some of which she only becomes aware of when faced with the isolation of being an English-only speaker who does not know Japanese customs and mores. Even with the English-speaking teachers and administrators at the school where she works, she tends to see what she is looking for at the time, making the same person appear negatively in one moment, and then positively in another. This compounds her isolation, as one by one she loses people from back home as well as new friends she has made while living in Japan.

The novel’s central theme is about identity. Kimberly struggles to understand who she is, as the people, ideas, and assumptions she has used to create a mask to hide behind falters. She is forced to confront who she is and what she really wants. As we journey through the novel, Kimberly comes to understand how her perspective has been shaped by others, by her expectations, even by her own fear. Eventually she finds the wisdom to break out of these emotional snares created by herself and those around her, reaching a healthier position at the end of the book, with the promise of good things to come.

Stewart’s writing is what I have come to expect. I read The Blue Man previously, which was also well written and I recommend. Stewart’s language, which is accessible and down-to-earth, not only brings the characters to life, but gives the reader a sense of shared intimacy with Kimberly as she struggles to turn her life around.

The Buddha’s Bone is a good read. For anyone who enjoys a slice of life story with a side of soul-searching, this book is for you. It is grounded in what feels like a very real life. The tribulations and lessons learned are potent and satisfying. The use of Buddhist ideas in a setting like Japan is fitting and appreciated, a literary cherry on top.

Four stars.

You can visit Leilanie Stewart’s Amazon page to see the other books she’s written.

Read my other Stewart reviews:

The Fairy Lights ❯

The Blue Man ❯

Matthew’s Twin ❯