I love this heartbreaking, inventive story about teenage Benny, who hears voices from the objects around him, and his mother Annabelle, who has a hoarding problem. The eclectic group of friends that Benny makes along the way adds a richness to this story that made it a true pleasure to read. Recommended By Jennifer H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"No one writes like Ruth Ozeki--a triumph." —Matt Haig, New York Times bestselling author of The Midnight Library
"Inventive, vivid, and propelled by a sense of wonder." —TIME
"If you've lost your way with fiction over the last year or two, let The Book of Form and Emptiness light your way home." —David Mitchell, Booker Prize-finalist author of Cloud Atlas
A boy who hears the voices of objects all around him; a mother drowning in her possessions; and a Book that might hold the secret to saving them both — the brilliantly inventive new novel from the Booker Prize-finalist Ruth Ozeki
One year after the death of his beloved musician father, thirteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house — a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn't understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother, Annabelle, develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.
At first, Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where objects are well-behaved and know to speak in whispers. There, Benny discovers a strange new world. He falls in love with a mesmerizing street artist with a smug pet ferret, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him to ask important questions and find his own voice amongst the many.
And he meets his very own Book — a talking thing — who narrates Benny's life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.
With its blend of sympathetic characters, riveting plot, and vibrant engagement with everything from jazz, to climate change, to our attachment to material possessions, The Book of Form and Emptiness is classic Ruth Ozeki — bold, wise, poignant, playful, humane and heartbreaking.
"[Ozeki] writes with bountiful insight, exuberant imagination, and levitating grace….This enthralling, poignant, funny, and mysterious saga, thrumming with grief and tenderness, beauty and compassion, offers much wisdom." Booklist (Starred Review)
"This is both an extremely vivid picture of a small family enduring unimaginable loss, and a very powerful meditation on the way books can contain the chaos of the world and give it meaning and order. Annabelle and Benny Oh try to stay afloat in a sea of things, news, substances, technological soullessness, and psychiatric quagmires, and the way they learn to live and breathe and even swim through it all feels like the struggle we all face. The Book of Form and Emptiness builds on the themes of A Tale for the Time Being, and ratifies Ozeki as one of our era's most compassionate and original minds." Dave Eggers, author of The Circle and The Parade
"A meditative tribute to books, libraries, and Zen wisdom." Kirkus Reviews
"Heart-breaking and heart-healing — a book to not only keep us absorbed but also to help us think and love and live and listen. No one writes quite like Ruth Ozeki and The Book of Form and Emptiness is a triumph." Matt Haig, New York Times bestselling author of The Midnight Library
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 a finalist for the 2013 Booker Prize. Her nonfiction work includes a memoir, The Face: A Time Code, and the documentary film, Halving the Bones. She is affiliated with the Everyday Zen Foun¬dation and teaches creative writing at Smith College, where she is the Grace Jarcho Ross 1933 Professor of Humanities.