Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being
Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being

Genre: Fiction

Summary (from Goodreads):  A brilliant, unforgettable, and long-awaited novel from bestselling author Ruth Ozeki

“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.

Review: I really enjoyed this complicated and unusual novel, although I don't think it's a book that everyone would like.  My favorite chapters were those written by Nao in her journal, although it took a while to get used to the teenage girl writing style.  Her life in Japan was very depressing, but she managed to write about bullying, suicide, neglect and prostitution with a marked lack of self-pity and at times a comic attitude.  It was fascinating to learn about Japanese pop culture through Nao's eyes.  Her communications with Jiko, her feminist Zen Buddhist priest great-grandmother, were my favorite parts of the book.  Ruth's life, on the other hand, was much more ordinary and full of common everyday details, although the glimpses of life on a tiny and wild Canadian island were also interesting.  I particularly enjoyed (but was confused by) how these two characters' dramatically different lives were tied together towards the end of the novel.  All in all, a fascinating novel, but not an easy read.

Rating: 4 stars

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