Ruth Ozeki covers a lot of ground in A Tale for the Time Being. She juxtaposits a sixteen year old, troubled Japanese teenager with a Canadian writer’s older perspective. Both characters search for meaning in their live’s. Their thoughts touch on the cord of how similar we are despite distance or age.
Nao spent most of her childhood in Silicon Valley, before returning to Japan. Back in Japan her father spirals into depressive, leaving Nao on her own to deal with the change. She gains some reprieve in her 104 year old Buddhist great-grandmother. Across the ocean, in a secluded island of British Columbia, Canada, Ruth finds Nao’s diary. The diary inspires the writer who’s career and life lack the spark it once did.
The book is a little long at four hundred pages. Although the story integrated lots of great information about environment, culture and philosophy into each of the heroine’s journeys, Oseki could cut or integrate some into another book. That said, A Tale for the Time Being is a book to savor. It’s not where the plot is heading that makes this an interesting read, but how it gets there. An ultimate compliment to the author is that a reread would bring additional insights; learning, seeing, smelling and enjoying the story.
Ruth Ozeki Writes in Two Points-of-View
Chapters alternate between Ruth’s and Nao’s point-of-view (POV). Ruth’s story comes through a step removed in third-person limited, while Ozeki presents a more intimate first-person POV for her Japanese teenager in the guise of the girl’s diary.
Sometimes the change of POV is disconcerting, although most of the time it works well. Lots of great footnotes on Japanese culture at the bottom of pages add another dimension to the story.
If you enjoy A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki has written many other books you may be interested in.A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Published by Viking on March 12th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction
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 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 a 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 humour 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.