A Tale for the Time Being is a hard book to describe. First of all, it’s two stories in one — the story of Ruth Ozeki (the character, who may or may not also be Ruth Ozeki, the author), a writer living on a Pacific Northwest island where a diary from Japan washes up on the beach, and Nao, the teenaged Japanese journal writer whose story Ruth gets caught up in. But it’s so much more than that — it’s also the story of Nao’s family, Ruth’s husband, the flora and fauna of the PNW, and the cultural complications of modern Tokyo. It’s primarily an exploration of time that also touches on topics like Zen Buddhism, quantum physics, teen bullying, war, suicide, what it means to be human, and many other themes. Ozeki manages to pull it all together in a way that reads beautifully, provokes thought, and has a real impact. I loved the characters, the settings, and the philosophical themes — my only quibble is that I wish the book was longer. I didn’t want it to end. Recommended By Leah C., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A brilliant, unforgettable novel from bestselling author Ruth Ozeki shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”
In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who's lived more than a century. A diary is Nao's only solace and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao's drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
Full of Ozeki's signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.
“An exquisite novel: funny, tragic, hard-edged and ethereal at once.” David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
“As contemporary as a Japanese teenagers slang but as ageless as a Zen koan, Ruth Ozeki's new novel combines great storytelling with a probing investigation into the purpose of existence....She plunges us into a tantalizing narration that brandishes mysteries to be solved and ideas to be explored....Ozeki's profound affection for her characters makes A Tale for the Time Being as emotionally engaging as it is intellectually provocative.” The Washington Post
“A delightful yet sometimes harrowing novel....Many of the elements of Nao's story — schoolgirl bullying, unemployed suicidal ‘salarymen, kamikaze pilots — are among a Western reader's most familiar images of Japan, but in Nao's telling, refracted through Ruth's musings, they become fresh and immediate, occasionally searingly painful. Ozeki takes on big themes...all drawn into the stories of two ‘time beings, Ruth and Nao, whose own fates are inextricably bound.” The New York Times Book Review
“Sixteen-year-old schoolgirl Nao Yasutani's voice is the heart and soul of this very satisfying book....The contemporary Japanese style and use of magical realism are reminiscent of author Haruki Murakami.” USA Today
“A terrific novel full of breakthroughs both personal and literary....Ozeki revels in Tokyo teen culture — this goes far beyond Hello Kitty — and explores quantum physics, military applications of computer video games, Internet bullying, and Marcel Proust, all while creating a vulnerable and unique voice for the sixteen-year-old girl at its center....Ozeki has produced a dazzling and humorous work of literary origami....Nao's voice — funny, profane and deep — is stirring and unforgettable as she ponders the meaning of her life.” The Seattle Times
“Forget the proverbial message in a bottle: This Tale fractures clichés as it affirms the lifesaving power of words....As Ozeki explores the ties between reader and writer, she offers a lesson in redemption that reinforces the pricelessness of the here and now.” Elle
“Magnificent...brings together a Japanese girls diary and a transplanted American novelist to meditate on everything from bullying to the nature of conscience and the meaning of life....The novel's seamless web of language, metaphor, and meaning cant be disentangled from its powerful emotional impact: These are characters we care for deeply, imparting vital life lessons through the magic of storytelling. A masterpiece, pure and simple.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“An intriguing, even beautiful narrative remarkable for its unusual but attentively structured plot....We go from one story line to the other, back and forth across the Pacific, but the reader never loses place or interest.” Booklist (starred review)
“Ozeki's absorbing novel is an extended meditation on writing, time, and people in time....The character's lives are finely drawn, from Ruth's rustic lifestyle to the Yasutani family's straitened existence after moving from Sunnyvale, California, to Tokyo. Nao's winsome voice contrasts with Ruth's intellectual ponderings to make up a lyrical disquisition on writings power to transcend time and place. This tale from Ozeki, a Zen Buddhist priest, is sure to please anyone who values a good story broadened with intellectual vigor.” Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. She is the award-winning author of three novels, My Year of Meats
, All Over Creation
, and A Tale for the Time Being
, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her critically acclaimed independent films, including Halving the Bones
, have been screened at Sundance and aired on PBS. She is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City.
Visit www.ruthozeki.com and follow @ozekiland on Twitter.
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