Talking about this book? Be sure to tag it using #BrideoftheBuddha #NetGalley
A 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, with a fanciful twist.
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. Concealing her gender, she joins the monastic community and becomes the Buddha’s closest confidant, known in the scriptures as Ananda. She/he is the one who persuades the Buddha to allow women to join the order and attains awakening just in time to guide the council in preserving the Buddha’s teachings.
"In this fine debut, McHugh combines scholarship with intriguing fictionalizations. This engrossing exploration of gender dynamics, identity, and the spiritual quest for meaning will appeal to Buddhists and general readers alike."
— Publishers Weekly
"Bride of the Buddha transports us to the years after Prince Siddhartha leaves his wife, Yasodhara, to seek his Dharma and become the Buddha. In this extraordinary imagining of Yasodhara's own journey to awakening, you'll feel you are with her every step of the way."
— James N. Frey, author of 9 novels and 7 bestselling books on the craft of writing
"A remarkable and riveting love story — I literally could not put this book down — Barbara McHugh's Bride of the Buddha is told in luminous and mindfully-crafted prose. By re-imagining the Buddha's disciple Ananda as Yasodhara, the wife Siddhartha abandoned in order to seek the Way, McHugh offers a story equally poised between transcendence and simple humanity. The reading became for me a meditation and an invitation to examine the Buddha's teaching in a new light. Highly recommended for anyone interested in living a more awakened life."
— Mobi Warren, translator of Thich Nhat Hanh's Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha
"In the tradition of alternate reality novels, Barbara McHugh spins a creative tale of intrigue and family drama as she reimagines aspects of the story of the Buddha. It is engaging and inventive, and very enjoyable."
—Phillip Moffitt, teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and author of Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the face of Suffering
"For the most part, the women who support and inspire great men remain anonymous. We have Barbara McHugh to thank for bringing Yasodhara out of the shadows. Making use of historical texts, oral traditions, and a vivid imagination, she has created a portrait of the bride of Buddha and the world in which he lived. Crisp, charming, and unforgettable."
— Sam Keen, author of To a Dancing God, Fire in the Belly, Your Mythic Journey, and many others
"In deft prose, Barbara McHugh creates the voice of Buddha's wife as a proto-feminist in a profoundly patriarchal culture. Yasodhara journeys from being the Buddha's profoundly sensual spouse to becoming his valued spiritual companion and attendant, Ananda, credibly disguised as a man. Bride of the Buddha is first a story, not a philosophical discourse, a re-imagining, not a re-telling of her story that even a non-Buddhist can appreciate."
— Carol L. Gloor, author of Gifting Death the Raspberries
"In prose that glides like poetry, McHugh weaves the bold story of a remarkable woman. Transported to a period when women were meant to be vessels only for breeding and serving, we follow her perilous spiritual journey to enlightenment. So much of women's truth has been lost to history, but McHugh lifts the veil to reveal Yasodhara, the Buddha's wife."
— Dorothy Edwards, author of Langston's Moon
"The wife of Siddhartha, the man who would be Buddha, Yasodhara sees her husband's heart and sacrifices her marriage to his quest for enlightenment, then has to face hard truths to pursue her own spiritual authenticity." Bride of the Buddha is a riveting tale of the nature of suffering and the journey to wisdom. Magically written, McHugh creates a world of mystic hope and earthly promise that leaves us looking more deeply into our own hearts."
— Tess Collins, author of Shadow Mountain
"In this unique and gripping novel of a historical figure relegated to the shadows by her famous husband, Yasodhara forges her own path, sacrificing position and privilege to undertake a perilous quest for enlightenment." Bride of the Buddha educates, illuminates, and captivates as it brings us into a legendary world.
— Max Tomlinson, award-winning author of Sendero and five other novels
"In an ambitious and brilliantly conceived historical novel that is both spiritually inspirational and heart-stopping entertainment, McHugh, a lifelong student of Buddhism and accomplished teacher of poetry, brings these gifts together in a novel with characters so well-realized that readers will be drawn into their quest and make it their own."
— John Martel, author of The Alternate and other bestselling novels
"A daring reimagining of the life of Yasodhara, the wife and mother of the infant Rahula that were left by Siddhartha to pursue enlightenment. As a young girl, Yasodhara is determined to engage a spiritual quest in the midst of a suffocating patriarchal culture in which men wielded power and upheld rigidly defined gender and class roles. It is all the more shocking, therefore, when Yasodhara infiltrates the Buddha's Sangha as the young monk Ananda and plays the pivotal role that he played in the life of the Buddha. At the heart of Yasodhara's spiritual seeking is an unshakable love that fiercely defends her husband and son, women and young seekers, and eventually expands to include the entire Sangha and the preservation of what the Buddha taught. I finished this novel with a yearning for this story to be true."
—Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Abbot Emeritus of Zen Center of Los Angeles, and co-author of The Book of Householder Koans
"From the first page to the last, the tale of this feisty bride and seeker held my heart. Yasi/Ananda repeatedly risks the hell realms out of love for others and a passion for justice. In her scrupulous honesty with herself about her faults, she is often blind to her own goodness, but her sometime husband aka the Buddha sees her more clearly and tenderly. As someone who has found Buddhism baffling, I was deeply informed and moved by Barbara McHugh's brilliant imagining of Yasodhara's life."
— Elizabeth Cunningham, author of The Passion of Mary Magdalen