Melinda Ott, December 16, 2013 (view all comments by Melinda Ott)
I contemplated not even reviewing this book--but since I've been telling everyone I know to read, I thought should at least attempt to put my thoughts about A Tale for the Time Being into writing.
There is so much going on this novel that it is deserving of a dissertation, not a review. We have Nao, the troubled teenager who grew up in the Bay Area and now finds herself a stranger in homeland of Japan. As if being a teenager was not hard enough, Nao is dealing with her father's mental instability at home and truly horrendous bullying at school.
Somehow, Nao's diary and a seemingly unrelated artifacts are very carefully wrapped up in a cocoon of plastic bags and a Hello Kitty lunch box wash up on a British Columbia beach and a writer, Ruth find them. Now, I don't know how autobiographical this is--but the character is Ruth and the author of this book is Ruth. They both live in British Columbia. They both had American fathers and Japanese mothers. They both have husbands named Oliver. I really don't know if a reader can take it any farther than that, but I found it strangely effective to think that the Ruth in the book is, in fact, Ruth Ozeki.
Ruth is pulled in by Nao's diary--and who wouldn't be? Nao is one of the best written teenage characters I've found in adult literature. The book alternates between Nao and Ruth and it sounds like that could be jarring, but it really isn't. I think the pacing of these transitions is especially effective in this book. It helped the reader to be grounded in two worlds--Nao's world of an indeterminate time period (present day, but how present?) and Ruth's more concrete world.
In this contrast, there is something that Ruth Ozeki has done that no other author I've read so far can match. When telling a story from multiple points of view, there is always something that sounds like the author in both voices. Not here. Nao's voice is so utterly distinct that I wonder if Ozeki really did find something when she was beach combing.
I had read great things about this book, and I expected to like it. I did not, however, expect to love it and to be as affected by it as I am. Do yourself a favor...read this book.
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Jim Hiller, March 25, 2013 (view all comments by Jim Hiller)
I discovered this incredibly engaging book on a table in Powell's last week. Once I started reading it, it had me from the very beginning and wouldn't let go.
Ruth discovers a package on the beach, assuming rightly or wrongly that it is debris from the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Upon opening it, she discovers a diary, kept by a Japanese girl named Nao, among other items, and begins to read. Nao's story is both heart rendering and heart breaking; as Ruth is pulled in, so are we. Nao deals with a suicidal father, a distant mother, and a school life that is so horrendous that it cannot be real. In fact, you begin to ask, what is real, as Ozeki fuses some delightful supernatural elements into the story just at a time when they are needed.
Ruth Ozeki plays with reality in so many unique ways that explaining them would give away too much. Suffice it to say that you will fall in love with Jiko, Nao's 104 year old great-grandmother and Buddhist nun with whom Nao stays during a summer break, giving much light, air, and philosophy, to this tale. I won't forget this book, nor can I wait until I revisit it again in the future.
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nadhir, March 16, 2013 (view all comments by nadhir)
It's not often a book gets me excited about reading it as soon as I open it, but that's what happened with "A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki. Right away, in the first few pages, readers are treated to a unique, young voice. Naoko is contemplative, wiser than she realizes, and speaks without tempering her words. She displays a very stark self-awareness which often caused me to catch my breath. This was my first time reading any of Ozeki's books, and I am left with the compulsion to go buy everything she's written. I am certain this novel is going to end up listed as one of the best releases of the year.
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