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Bride of the Buddha by Barbara McHugh, Ph.D.: A Book Review

Bride of the Buddha
Author: Barbara McHugh, Ph.D.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Monkfish Book Publishing
Release Date: 2021
Pages: 294

Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: This is the story of Yasodhara, the abandoned wife of the Buddha. Facing society’s challenges, she transforms her rage into devotion to the path of liberation. The page-turner about a woman’s struggle in an unapologetic religious patriarchy, Bride of the Buddha offers a penetrating perspective on the milieu of the Buddha.

     My Review: Bride of the Budddha tells the story of Buddha’s abandoned wife. Yashodhara marries Prince Siddhartha. He abandons her and their son to search for enlightenment. Wanting to find her own quest for enlightenment, Yashodhara disguises herself as a man and joins her husband’s monastery. She becomes his disciple known as Ananda and is his closest confidant. Ananda persuaded him to allow women into the order to help spread Buddha’s teachings.

     Yashodhara has largely been a forgotten figure in Buddhism, but has recently been gaining attention with books like The Buddha’s Wife and Yashodhara. In this latest novel about Buddha’s abandoned wife, Yashodhara is a fully fleshed-out historical figure. Yashodhara is shown as a suffering woman who goes through many hardships and guilt. Throughout the novel, she embarks on her own quest for enlightenment. Thus, Yashodhara was truly a strong heroine. I liked how she persuaded Buddha to let women be admitted to the order.

     Overall, this novel is about identity, gender norms, and enlightenment. The characters feel very real and complex. The setting of Ancient Nepal comes alive. The prose is lush and evocative. I love the first person narrative of the story because I came away feeling as if I knew Yashodhara. The only thing I did not like about this book was that it moves at a very fast pace, there were some scenes that felt rushed. Nevertheless, Bride of the Buddha is a very feminist novel because it highlights the injustices of women in a patriarchal society. Bride of the Buddha takes the reader on a spiritual journey that shines light on a forgotten but important historical figure.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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