Read A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki Online


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,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....

Title : A Tale for the Time Being
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780670026630
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 422 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Tale for the Time Being Reviews

  • Zaphoddent
    2019-02-10 01:30

    Dammit this should have been at least a 4 star book! Till about the second half of part 3, I was all set to give this rave reviews 'cause Nao's story was so compelling and well written plus there wasn't enough of Ruth's woeful tone to grate on the nerves. Then Ruth's dream sequence comes up and ugh it damn near ruins the bloody book. It's ridiculous! Some psychic, whimsical,zen bullshit. It's not the spiritual realm that's the problem, it's the fact that it comes from almost nowhere and it sounds forced and ridiculous, very unlike Nao's meeting of her ancestors. How bad is it? At first I thought it was a joke within the book. Sadly it wasn't! The reason it was going to get a great review was the fact that the Nao's sections were well written, dispensing a lot of cultural information without sounding like a lecture. Then the Ruth sections would pop up and it was like going from brilliance to silly trivialities in milliseconds. Kinda jarring and not in a good way. Never read a book that was so bipolar. Found Ruth self pitying and bloody boring. The worst parts were Ruth's dreams!!! Oh lord how annoying, how iffy and again how bloody irritatingly annoying. Cut out all the Ruth sections and this would have been a much better book. I listened to this and every time Nao's part was over and Ruth's story came up, I groaned. Almost abandoned the book but Nao's story was compelling enough to hang on. Then the end starts drawing closer and I swear I have never been so close to chucking a book in disgust after investing so much time. The only hope was that the brilliance of the Nao sections would override the banality of the Ruth sections. Sadly this did not happen. Should have followed instinct to chuck the book. Definitely not worth the invested time. On a good note the author reads the audiobook and does a pretty good job.

  • Rebecca Foster
    2019-01-24 23:32

    If I’d had my way, the 2013 Man Booker Prize would have gone to this novel-writing documentary filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priestess from British Columbia, Canada (by way of Japan). A Tale for the Time Being is a rich reflection on what it means to be human in an era of short attention spans, the dearth of meaning, and imminent environmental threat.The time being: the present moment is what we’re stuck with now and must embrace. The time being: in the Buddhist viewpoint, each human is entrapped by time, which means that we are all in this together; this is an Everyman tale.On present-day Vancouver Island, “Ruth,” a Japanese-American novelist who is attempting to write a memoir of her mother’s slow demise from Alzheimer’s but has a bad case of writer’s block, stumbles across a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the beach. Inside she finds a cache of old letters and a teenage girl’s diary, disguised as a copy of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu.The diary belonged to sixteen-year-old Nao (pronounced “now” – is it all starting to fit together?) Yasutani, who cheerfully and informally confides in her imagined reader about her life. The past few years in Tokyo have not been easy for her – she’s been the victim of extreme bullying at the hands of her classmates, and suicide seems to run in the family – but she has a guardian angel in the form of her great-grandmother, Buddhist nun Jiko, who is approaching death at age 104 but still represents the voice of wisdom and a timeless perspective.In a modified epistolary format that includes diaries, letters, e-mails, and an abstract of a disappearing journal article, Ozeki builds her gentle academic mystery: where did the lunchbox come from? How did it wash up in Canada? Are Nao and the other diary subjects still alive and well, or did they die in the 2011 Japanese tsunami? Alternating chapters contrast Nao’s diary entries with Ruth’s reactions and commentary a decade later. Yet, in a delicious outbreak of magic realism, it seems Ruth may actually have some power to change Nao’s fate.This is a superbly intelligent novel, with concerns ranging from ocean currents and pollution to the wacky quantum physics theory of multiple worlds. Ultimately, it is about being happy in the here and now – not looking to the past or the future for contentment or hope; and not indulging in regret or wishes. As the character Ruth states in the epilogue: “I’d much rather know, but then again, not-knowing keeps all the possibilities open. It keeps all the worlds alive.”(This formed part of an article on the Man Booker Prize 2013 shortlist for Bookkaholic.)

  • Teresa
    2019-02-12 23:53

    What a ride. This novel sucked me in and then spit me out, leaving me gasping as it did. I can't say this book is perfect. It's probably a bit flawed, as many novels are, but with the totality of it meaning so much more than any flaws might take away. None of these flaws come from the writing itself, though, and if you feel some things here and there are a bit slow, please be patient -- Zen Buddhism is a big theme after all -- it picks up quickly and flows again, almost immediately.There are many postmodern, metafictional elements to the telling of this story, ones we've seen before: footnotes (mostly to explain Japanese words), appendices (read them as they're mentioned; they elucidate but don't bore), a main character who is the novelist (and who, I'm sure, is also not the novelist), but they are so well done and seem so accessible and integral to the tale that none jar or feel over-familiar.The story's told with some humor in the beginning, enough to lull you (with the voice of the young girl, Nao, in the diary) to almost forgetting a couple of tell-tale bits that surely don't mean what they probably do mean. She's too young, you tell herself, that would be too sad, too horrible. And then when you are hit with what she's endured and is enduring when she reaches her 'now', it's that much more heartbreaking and even hard to read. Adding to the growing darkness is the addition of Nao's great-uncle Haruki's secret diary, which contains some of the most horrific things that were done in WWII -- none of that new to me but still haunting, that being a good word for the whole of this novel.And so many themes, ones I love, ones that I saw in new ways, mostly to do with time and being (and non-being), as you might guess from the title, but still much more: memory, dreams, the effects of violence, stories, reading and writing (who is actually calling into being, creating, whom?). The handling of these themes is masterful, a word I rarely use in reviews, but when I do, I must give the book 5 stars.At some point while reading, I was reminded of McEwan's The Child in Time (a novel I love) for one particular scene only, but now that I refresh my memory of that book, there's another superficial connection as well.

  • Brina
    2019-02-20 18:40

    Ruth Ozeki is an award winning film maker and novelist. A Tale for the Time Being is her third and most ambitious novel and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer and Man Booker awards. In this 2013 autobiographical novel, Ozeki details how a woman named Ruth finds a diary, letters, and watch belonging to a teenaged girl named Naoka sealed inside a ziplock bag. These items most likely traveled to Canada from Japan following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. A novelist looking for a good story, Ruth decides to read Nao's diary in real time, embarking on a journey that has readers questioning auspices of both time and life as we know it. Ruth moved from Manhattan to a small island off of British Columbia after meeting her husband Oliver at a conference. She brought her widowed mother who suffered from Alzheimer's on her move, consolidating her remaining family to one place. Named Desolation Island by its residents, the island has more flora and fauna than people and is home to thriving ecosystems. This is what originally brought Oliver, an Iocene Era enthusiast, along with his cat Pesto, to live there. A tiny community named Whaletown for the bygone industry, the town is home to quirky people who have fascinating stories to tell. Although off of most internet grids, the setting is ideal for writing, and, for the most part, Ruth enjoys living there. One day while walking along the beach at Jap Ranch, Ruth finds a diary along with letters and a watch, all sealed inside a giant ziplock bag. Oliver believes that they came from Japan following the tsunami, and Ruth has her interest piqued. Struggling to finish a memoir about her mother, Ruth decides to read the writing of sixteen-year-old Nao Yasutani, a Tokyo resident who moved back to Japan from California with her parents following the bubble crash. Even though Nao's story captivates Ruth, she decides to read the story in real time in order to honor Nao's memory. The real life Ruth Ozeki embarks on a multi layered story by telling Nao's tale. A time being is a being in time, and this is how Nao chooses to begin her diary. We find out that Nao is old for her grade and tormented by classmates, that her brilliant father can not find a job and constantly contemplates suicide, and that Nao is so American and would rather be back in California but her friends there have discarded her. Her mother strives to keep the family together and sends Nao to live with her great grandmother, a 104 year old Buddhist nun named Jiko, for her summer vacation. What ensues, is a touching relationship, and one that has Nao discovering and preserving her family history in her diary. Being an American of Japanese descent, Ozeki desires to write of the kamikaze pilots during World War II. She details how the war was different for Japan and the United States and uses the events of 9-11 to contrast the different perspectives. Nao's father Yaruki is named for his uncle who sacrificed his life for his country during the war. Yaruki #1 was a student studying French existentialism and the least likely of soldiers. Drafted at age 19 near the war's completion, he was chosen for a suicide mission, and, with his death, leads his mother Jiko to take the vows of a nun. Ozeki weaves all of these storylines by showing how family history repeats itself with Yaruki #1 and Yaruki #2, and with Yaruki #1 and Nao. Ruth and Oliver contemplate all of these stories as they read the diary, and are left wondering if Nao perishes in the tsunami or if she somehow survived in time. Although I am usually not one who enjoys reading about alternate realities, I found Ozeki's ideas fascinating, and read quickly to find a resolution for both the Yasutani family and for Ruth. Ruth Ozeki employs a diary, letters, Buddhist teachings, dreams, and Nao's stream of consciousness thoughts to create an exceptional novel. She expertly weaves many storylines together and writes in third person, even when one of the protagonists is meant to be herself. I found her questioning of the time continuum and using this as a means to bring the world closer together to be a thought provoking concept. A new author to me, I found A Tale for the Time Being both thorough and captivating, and rate this gem of a novel 4.5 bright stars.

  • Julie Christine
    2019-02-01 20:44

    I attended the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference this week. Just before an afternoon workshop on Wednesday, I chatted with a woman who is writing her memoir. “I don’t read fiction,” she told me. “Are there any good female writers?” Not “Are there any female writers you’d recommend?” Just, “Are there any good ones?” Never mind the 813 ways I wanted to respond to the question. I thought of the last great book I’d read, which happened to be written by a woman. I began to tell her of A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. I said something about a teenage girl’s diary washing up on the shore of a remote island in Desolation Sound, British Columbia. About a writer in the doldrums, plodding through her memoir. About a mystery and Zen Buddhism and quantum mechanics. I did a terrible job of describing this beautiful book, for the woman sitting next to me said, “Oh, mysteries. I would never read a mystery. My husband likes P.D. James, though.” No, wait, I wanted to say. You don’t understand. It’s not amystery mystery. There’s just this diary of a young girl being bullied and the tsunami and flotsam and Schrödinger’s cat, and …. But it was too late. Class began and we delved into the mysteries of character development. Her question made me consider the relevance of author gender. A part of the me thinks Who cares if the writer is male or female? Why can’t we categorize a piece as a fine work of prose without the condescending sub-category of “woman/female” writer? We don’t say male writer, now do we? Yet, when it comes to a work as self-referential asA Tale for the Time Being, it is hard to separate the writer from her thematic approach. Men and women do regard time, space, the natural world, memory and mortality differently, don’t we? Or perhaps we articulate the same beliefs and emotions in a different way. I’m getting all tangled up here. Much like Ruth does as she attempts to sort out the mystery of the diary she finds on the beach. Ozeki uses the avatar of Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu as a literal and figurative bookend. A copy of this 19th century classic is repurposed as a blank journal and written in by Naoko, or Nao, as she prefers to be called. Nao is a young woman, ethnically Japanese but raised in the United States. The late 90’s tech bubble bursts and the economic collapse sends her family back to Japan. There she buys the journal and uses it to escape from the horror of the physical abuse and psychological torture she experiences at her new high school and the tragedy of her father’s depression. Nao is our guide through much of this story and like her name, Nao is a time being. Her now is in the past, but Nao becomes Ruth’s present.Many years after Nao’s abominable teenage years, Ruth, the story’s main character – a writer and student of Zen Buddhism, much like Ruth, the book’s author – finds the journal. Enclosed in the diary are several letters written in Japanese, which appear to be from a much earlier time than Nao’s diary entries in English. These letters become a mystery within a mystery. Ruth wonders if the carefully packaged journal is flotsam from the 2011 Tohoku tsunami or jetsam from a young woman crying for help. It is significant that the title of Proust’s epic novel cum memoir is translated either as In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past, for both titles fit Proust’s and Ozeki’s themes (although the first translation is literal). This is a story of time. How truth and memory shift and are reconstructed with time; how impatient we are for troubled times to pass, yet we are breathless with regret when we realize the time we have wasted on the way. It is an ode to the bliss of the present; an elegy to the lost past. This is also a story that takes time. It asks that you slow down and turn its pages as carefully as Ruth does Nao’s diary. It is a story of images, of settings, nuances and breath which, like Nao’s diary and the old letters Ruth has translated, “reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.”Ozeki juxtaposes the peace of Ruth’s isolation and simple life on the island with the chaos of Nao’s Tokyo. Yet even the island is subject to the chaos of the natural world. Ruth must dash off e-mails before the latest winter storm knocks out power to their home. She and her husband search their property and beyond for the corpse of the family cat, certain wolves have made quick hors d’oeuvres of kitty. This is in contrast to Nao’s beloved great-grandmother, Jiko, who is a Buddhist nun living a life of elective poverty and self-reliance at a peaceful mountain temple site.We are reminded that the past never forgets, whether it is found letters or diaries, or a moment captured on the internet that can never truly be erased. We are reminded that it is the present which demands our greatest attention, for the present becomes the past with the beat of a heart, the screech of train, the crash of an airliner into a skyscraper or the crash of a wave on an island. This is a novel of grand themes, complex themes, themes that require appendices. It is a work of fiction with an extensive bibliography. I tend to steer clear of complicated works of fiction that endeavor to instruct. I simply want a good story. Which Ruth Ozeki offers. Oh boy, does she ever.

  • Scarlet
    2019-01-26 18:26

    3.5A Tale for the Time Being is like one of those assorted platters you get in restaurants - there is a little bit of everything but not everything is necessarily appealing. Unlike dining, however, I'm not at the liberty to pick and choose here. Consequently, my reaction to the overall book is kind of hazy. Some portions blew me away (mostly the last quarter). Some portions made me think. Some broke my heart, some left me appalled, some put me to sleep. And then there were these parts that I simply did not understand.I'm intrigued by this book. It is weird and inventive and very, very deceptive. It is so much more than what it claims to be. It is so dense without actually feeling dense. It is so easy to read but not so easy to comprehend.A Tale for the Time Being is the story of two women, separated by distance and time, yet intimately bound by a relationship that cuts across all dimensions - one reads what the other has written.Ruth, a writer living in some obscure island in British Columbia, comes across a Hello Kitty lunchbox on the beach one morning. Inside, among other things, is a Japanese schoolgirl’s diary. Bound by the hardcover of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu or In Search of Lost Time, it opens with an almost cheerful declaration of suicide by a young girl called Naoko from halfway across the world.Contrary to what anyone in her place would do, Ruth decides to pace her reading. So she does not read any faster than Naoko would have written.This is a story-within-a-story kind of book. Ruth reading Nao's diary is the bigger story. Nao's diary, in turn, is like a collection of multiple stories in which Nao talks about the people in her life - her great grandmother Jiko, who is a Zen Buddhist nun; her great uncle Haruki #1, who was a kamikaze pilot in WW2; her father Haruki #2, who is depressed and suicidal after losing his job. Like I said, an assortment platter.Let's talk about Nao first. For me, Naoko Yasutani was the pivot that held this book in place. And this is a book that really needs a pivot because Ozeki likes to meander, order and reason be damned. I could count on Nao to bring me back, to engage me again, to keep me turning the pages, because how could I rest not knowing what happened to this young girl who is so ruthlessly bullied by her peers?? (view spoiler)[Ruthless is not a strong enough word. Nao is bullied physically, verbally, mentally, even sexually. (hide spoiler)] Sure, Nao annoyed me sometimes. Doesn't change the fact that she is the first thing I will remember whenever anyone mentions this book.Coming to Ruth. I realized quite late that the Ruth and Oliver in the story were based on Ozeki and her husband Oliver. Well, what can I say? I just hope they are not this profoundly boring in real life.Every time the POV switched to Ruth, I had to suppress a groan. So dry, so monotonous, so dead. Oliver is like this walking encyclopedia or something. 90% of what he says has NOTHING to do with the story. Ocean gyres, garbage patches, quantum physics... that last chapter was eerily reminiscent of my high school Physics textbook.I read this review that suggested Ruth's parts should have been cut out entirely. Not quite possible, since Ruth plays a very important role in the book. She is the reader and Nao's story would have no meaning without a reader. But I still think a lot of things could have been edited out.The book takes a mystical turn in the last quarter. Nao's seemingly ordinary diary turns out to be not so ordinary after all. Ozeki plays with the notion of time, letting the past and the present collide, blurring the lines between reality and illusion. Like I said, I did not understand the whole thing. In fact, I don't think I'm supposed to understand the whole thing.Irrespective of my rating, A Tale for the Time Being is the kind of book I will remember. It is not perfect, it is not seamless, but it is not unmemorable either. This book just missed out on 4-star-amazing for me and that is mainly my own fault, I think. I did not pay attention when I should have paid attention because this book was not what I was led to believe it was. Well, I'm still glad I read it.Now to wait and watch what the Booker committee decides.--------------------And it's Eleanor Catton - youngest Booker recipient ever - for The Luminaries - the heftiest book in the shortlist this year. Congratulations! :D

  • Elyse
    2019-02-22 02:42

    Update: Wow!!!!!!!! $1.99 Kindle special of 'this' book is a GREAT DEAL!!!! "A Tale for The Time Being" came out the same year that "The Goldfinch" won The Pulitzer Prize. For me ---it was a toss up --as I felt this book was as good as winning also! If you've not read this story and have wanted to --or want to check it out --have a Kindle -- the price is fantastic. I like this book so much --that after I read it on Netgalley -- I went and bought a physical copy. (which I still own) BRILLIANT -- INTIMATE -- ENLIGHTENING This is the most UN-ordinary Fiction book I've read all year! Its painful -- complicated & riveting!!! The writing style is piercing with integrity--'charm'--and bravery!I've picked a stand out-for me-in this book: (note: taken out of context --but its beauty stands alone --won't spoil the story): "Everyone was superhappy because finding a nodobotoke is a good sign. Muji said its the most important bone, the one we call an Adam's apple in English, but in Japanese, it's called the Throat Buddha, because it's triangular and looks a little bit like the shape of a person sitting zazen. If you can find the Throat Buddha, then the dead person will enter nirvana and return to ocean of eternal tranquility. One more: "Sometimes the mind arrives but words don't.Sometimes words arrive but the mind doesn'tSometimes mind and words both arrive.Sometimes neither mind nor words arrive.Mind and words are time being. Arriving and not-arriving are time being."Many THUMBS Up -UP & UP to Ruth Ozeki!!! ---I already miss my friendship with Nao! ---"because 'we' became friends"!

  • Samadrita
    2019-02-16 23:34

    3.5/5Rare is the book which I have simultaneously loved and hated. Rare is the book which has deftly pried open the shell of visible reality to expose the pliant flesh of the human condition with such loving care yet disappointingly sacrificed narrative integrity to manipulate the reader's emotions in the end. The Nao-narrated portion of the novel appears too served up to be believable. A beautifully decorated obento offered to the smug Western reader who sees Japan as a collage of stereotypes - ijime, hikikomori, jisatsu, French maid cafes, enjo kosai, host clubs, bishounen, zazen, juvenile delinquency, the endemic hatred for gaijin, kamikaze pilots and so on and so forth. What disappointed me most was Ozeki's unabashed pandering to the Western reader and reducing Nao's life to the melodramatic plot from a campy J-dorama. Not only is she hated and bullied brutally in school for appearing more American than Japanese, but she also has a hikikomori suicidal father who refuses to go find work and lurks on forums looking for suicide buddies. Friendless and lonely, she even dabbles in 'compensated dating' with hentai oji sans. And despite contending with such a misery magnet of a life, Nao's voice manages to muster a sardonic indifference which I found extremely hard to believe at times. The only missing pieces in this perfect parade of cliches are a couple of yakuza members with permed hairstyles and tattooed forearms or loan sharks terrorizing the Yasutani family. One of the reasons I rated Midnight's Children so highly was because Rushdie never dumbed down India or its distinct sociopolitical features for the sake of winning easy approval of the random European/American reader. In fact, he parodied the whole Western misconception about 'snake-charmers' being a defining motif of Indian cultural traditions without ever alienating his readerbase. As a diasporic author, Ozeki failed a similar test of authenticity in my eyes. Even the more sublime and endearing bits featuring Jiko, the hundred and four years old Zen Buddhist nun and former anarcho-feminist-novelist, who gives Nao her 'supapawa' to grapple with the cruelties of everyday life, fail to cancel out the annoyance of the cliche plot points. And the last stretch botched it completely. The quantum mechanics and magical realist bits came out of nowhere and clashed with the stark realism of the earlier parts of the novel. I do not mind a plot straying into the domain of absurdity for the sake of enforcing some token symbolism (the significance of the writer-reader bond in this case), but there has to be some kind of cohesion between the disparate worlds of reality and far-fetched possibility which this novel unfortunately lacked. Also I've watched enough Fringe episodes to remain unaffected by the theories of alternate reality.Small failings aside, this is an extremely important work which probes the underlying logic (or lack thereof) of wars and xenophobia, factors in the deep and abiding importance of the natural world in an era of rabid climate change, preaches compassion and tolerance towards even those worthy of contempt, and advocates living life for the time being regardless of the woes that may make it difficult to bear. But to rate this any higher would be to go against my beliefs of what a good book should be able to achieve without resorting to gimmickry.

  • Debbie
    2019-01-31 01:28

    3.5 starsSitting here at the bistro with my best friends, and we all order the same exotic dish. They're licking their chops and raving about it. I’m liking it okay, but I get a few bursts of flavor that make me scrunch up my face. Sure, the sauce is great, but it's taking me forever to chew this meat. I'm so busy trying to digest it, I really can't even talk yet. This is an award-winning dish by a grand chef. What is WRONG with me? How come my friends don’t have to chew so much? Isn't the meat on their plates as tough? I keep chomping away, but I feel weird and embarrassed that I’m odd-person out. I just hate not being able to share the glee, but really, I don’t want the recipe. And I’m not hot to tell my friends that the meal didn’t do me like it did them.Like the meal, this book has a whole lot of good. It starts with the proclamation that we’re all time beings. It got an A for cool factor right there. This is a strange and at first totally enchanting read. Nao is a Japanese teenager living in Tokyo, transplanted from Silicon Valley. She has written a diary that washes up on the shores of Canada. Her story is unusual and inventive. A writer, Ruth, living in the woods with her husband, finds the diary and sets about trying to figure out what happened to Nao. The story alternates between the two worlds, and it's clever how the stories intersect. Lots of topics are touched upon--suicide, bullying, 9/11, Zen Buddhism, and Japanese soldiers in WW2.Nao's voice is just plain cool. I sort of wish the whole book had been her journal; Ruth's story just wasn't as interesting and I kept wanting to get back to Nao. Nao's comments about the oddness and beauty and interconnectivity of time are playful and profound. And some stuff is cool beyond words. There’s a great communal bath scene in a Zen monastery that I’ll remember for a long while. And Nao’s great-grandmother, a wise old Zen Buddhist nun, tells Nao to find her superpower and use it. It made me think, what is my superpower? Ozeki made me think of things I've never thought about before, and that was luscious. I had never tasted such an unusual dish, but why did she put such a big heap on my plate, and why was the meat so tough in places? One piece I couldn’t digest was the science lecture. At the end of the book, the author suddenly decided to teach us dimwits about the beauty of quantum physics. If you’re not into it, you’re just not into it. Reading fiction, I’m looking for a rich plot, and I resent the intrusion of a science class. She even has appendices that provide even more information on quantum physics—really strange and unwanted in a book that should have only fiction between its covers.Another bite I choked on was the magical realism. I’m reading along thinking this was a realistic story, when I suddenly run into magic. Ruth notices that words in Nao’s journal had mysteriously disappeared. Huh? There were other magical elements, and they all ruined it for me.Okay, one more bite that was unpleasant: a really long dream. I hate dreams in novels almost as much as I hate magical realism. Dreams are supposed to be all symbolic and cool, but I just think of them as boring and distracting interruptions.And blech! I do not like the taste of footnotes! There are more than 150 (!) of them. I hated having to exit the story to read a footnote. Yes, I realize I could have just ignored them, but my nosy self convinced my reading self that leaving the page to chase a footnote was the right thing to do. Because what if they were whispers that I needed to hear? Some of the footnotes were just more info, but many were Japanese phrases. I'm guessing the author did this for authenticity, but I would have much preferred she use the English translation so that I didn't have to leave the page. It was especially a pain with the Kindle because I had to click and go to a new page to see the footnote, and sometimes I’d space out and miss the Back button, sending me to god knows where in the book. I’d have to find my way back, meanwhile losing the reading momentum and getting more and more annoyed. The middle and the very end dragged on and on for me. The book needed a good edit. Too much food on the plate! Too many descriptions of nature, too much quantum physics. Add on the dreams and the side trips into fantasyland, and I was ready for the book to be over.I drove myself crazy going back and forth between giving this book a 4 or a 3, but I ultimately ended up measuring it by whether I wanted to pick it back up every day (not usually), whether I kept looking to see how far I had gotten (yep), and whether I thought about what should have been edited out (totally). This all led me to the Road of 3. But…but…but….there is a whole lot of really really great stuff in this book. No, I probably won’t buy this dish again, but I’m not the least bit sorry I tried it.

  • Pam
    2019-02-20 20:28

    Warning - everyone else in this world loves this book. It is the story of a teenager, Nao, in Toyko who decides to pour her soul into a diary that washes ashore in Canada into the hands of an author. The author becomes obsessed with Nao who tells the story (actually not really) of her great grandmother, a Buddhist Nun. There are a ton of themes including East vs. West, search for home and roots, meaning of time, quantum physics, and search for peace and acceptance. Basically it is a metaphysical novel. Called "brilliantly beguiling," I was expecting more actually a lot more. The alternating chapters with its points of view and telling the story both backwards and forwards is a construction I find over used and no longer clever. I also found no need for Nao's life to be so disturbingly horrific and honestly can't believe that the adults in her life couldn't/wouldn't step in to help her. Her 104 year old great grandmother (fragile in body) was the most capable adult around - really? Honestly the author evoked irritation and then just pissed me off. Reading the book did remind me that I like my books as Aristotle liked his theater: "true to life and yet more beautiful." I did not find all this cruelty to be beautiful. Ozeki did create haunting characters and I will remember the basic storyline. As I said, I am the only one who isn't enraptured by this book.

  • Michael
    2019-02-15 00:26

    Wonderful tale of a woman writer in a remote coastal village in British Columbia, Ruth, whose writer’s block gets extended when she starts reading the journals of a Japanese girl, Nao, which washes up on the shore in a waterproof box. Ruth becomes totally attuned to Nao’s vivid writing about her life in Tokyo after a childhood in Silicon Valley, her resilience in the face of extreme bullying at school, her concerns for her unemployed and suicidally depressed father, and her enchantment with her great grandmother, Jiko, who is nun at a Zen monastery. Ruth paces her reading to match that of its writing and devotes her other time to internet searching for clues to the identity of the girl in hopes of finding out if she is alive. She and her husband speculate whether Nao was a victim of the tsunami associated with the earthquake that damaged the Fukushima reactor back in 2012, somehow finding time to save her journal. Two other items in the box provide clues, a special watch and a packet of letters in French that she needs outside help to get translated. The identity of Jiko is another puzzle to pursue through Nao’s revelation that she was a radical feminist poet in Japan’s brief history as a democratic republic back in the 1920’s. What Ruth eventually learns (I ain’t telling) are secrets that even Nao didn’t know about her family. Knowledge that could have changed the dangerous directions Nao is pursuing (was pursuing) in her life recounted in the journal (I ain’t telling). Ruth‘s obsession leads her to the illusion of communicating an important message across time in a dream. Other occasions of apparent magic realism are played out against the alternative that Ruth may be getting Alzheimer’s like her mother had (which keeps me from tagging the book as clearly fantasy or science fiction). Ruth ponders:Who had conjured whom? Was she the dream? Was Nao the one writing her into being.I delighted in all the characters in the book. That’s where the true life of the novel resides, but the stage set by all the ideas about eddies of time, information and decay, and the boundaries between life and death add to the potency of their performance. The novel has a lot of mind-bending in the vein of Murikami and David Mitchell. Perhaps in homage to the former there is a disappearing cat. In this case the cat gives us an opportunity to toy with the solution to the Schroedinger’s Cat paradox that calls for perpetual splitting of reality into parallel universes. Nao herself is the epitome of “Now” as she imbibes the Zen wisdom of her ancient and beloved Jiko. For her a wave in water is equivalent to the wave of a mountain (“the same, but different”). Nao puts her journal in a cover binding of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.” Ruth’s husband addresses global warming by growing a forest of ancient trees of species from the NeoEocene epoch. Somehow all these elements make for something delicious.This book was so much fun for me, so pregnant with possibilities. I had the illusion that the meaning of our existence was at stake as the tale unfolded. The ominous vast gyre of plastic trash in the ocean, such an awful artifact of our civilization, miraculously delivered Nao’s story to Ruth. Nao’s present is past for Ruth but present in her uncertainty about Nao’s death. As Ruth digs into images of the tsunami on the Internet, she discovers a photo of a six hundred stone tablet above the high water mark inscribed with a warning that translates, “Do not built below here.” She realizes our ancestors “were speaking to us across time, but we didn’t listen.” She makes some fascinating analogies after pulling random video clips of the disaster off the Internet:Does the half-life of information correlate with the decay of our attention? Is the Internet a kind of temporal gyre, sucking up stories, like geodrift, into its orbit? What is its gyre memory? …The tidal wave, observed, collapses into tiny particles, each one containing a story. … a mobile phone ringing deep inside a mountain of sludge and debris …a medical worker clad in full radiation hazmat wanding a bare-faced baby squirming in his mother’s arms. It’s hard to truly account for the pleasures I found in this weird and alluring story. About a fourth of my Goodreads friends who read this were not so enamored (3 or fewer stars). The sparkle of ideas were just flashes; the warp of reality was just leg-pulling contrivance; the sizzle of characters cartoony, etc. So your mileage may vary. For me I am already weighing prospects of her two other novels which already sit murmuring on my shelves, “Pick me, pick me!”

  • Whitney Atkinson
    2019-01-28 02:53

    4.5 starsReally interesting plot, compelling writing, and this book really made me think. I love how it has actual nuggets of information, so I actually learned things from this book, both about science and Japanese culture/Buddhism. I would recommend this one, but trigger warning for suicide and bullying.

  • Diane
    2019-02-19 20:48

    What a fascinating novel this was! I enjoyed the alternate timelines and the two female narrators, Nao and Ruth. Nao is in Japan and is writing in her journal, and Ruth later finds the journal and reads it, without knowing what happened to Nao. It's an intriguing and emotional story, and it made for a good book club discussion. Recommended!Favorite Quotes"Life is fleeting. Don't waste a single moment of your precious life. Wake up now! And now! And now!""Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader’s eye. Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.""That's what it feels like when I write, like I have this beautiful world in my head, but when I try to remember it in order to write it down, I change it, and I can't ever get it back.""Do all kids have to worry about their parents’ mental health? The way society is set up, parents are supposed to be the grown-up ones and look after the kids, but a lot of times it’s the other way around.""It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they’re all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart.""Both life and death manifest in every moment of existence. Our human body appears and disappears moment by moment, without cease, and this ceaseless arising and passing away is what we experience as time and being. They are not separate. They are one thing, and in even a fraction of a second, we have the opportunity to choose, and to turn the course of our action either toward the attainment of truth or away from it. Each instant is utterly critical to the whole world.""An unfinished book. left unattended, turns feral, and she would need all her focus, will and ruthless determination to tame it again."

  • Book Riot Community
    2019-02-04 18:35

    Painful Honesty Time: I begged for this book based on the cover. A friend laid out a bunch of books on her bed and snapped a photo and I knew I had to borrow it the minute I saw it. It was like looking at a roll of LifeSavers perfectly welded together under the sun, but with art in every stripe.It was also an excellent read. Imaginative, funny, soulful, creative. The novel switches between the perspectives of two characters: sixteen-year-old Nao and Ruth, a struggling novelist. Through both characters we see a struggle for identity and the different pressures of assimilation. As a WoC, it was an incredibly refreshing read.And I want to eat the book, so, sorry Eliza.–Mal Sotofrom The Best Books We Read In June 2017: Tale for the Time Being patted me on the head and then tore my heart out through my throat. It’s got Hello Kitty lunchboxes and Zen Buddhist nuns. A chatty Japanese teenager in a Tokyo fetish cafe. A struggling novelist on a remote Pacific island. Magic and superpowers. Naoko Yasutani is 16 years old when she decides to write about her great grandmother’s life in a Buddhist temple. But when her diary floats across the ocean in a plastic bag and washes up on the British Columbia coastline, it’s discovered by a writer named Ruth who becomes obsessed with the mystery of Naoko’s life. What begins as a wacky and charming story soon dives off the cliff of the dark and difficult, with Big. Existential. Questions. about war, disaster, and suffering. I’m just a little bit mad that it kept me up with existential angst at night, but it’s still one of the best books I’ve read, ever. –Rachel Smalter HallFrom The Best Books We Read in January:

  • Margitte
    2019-02-21 19:49

    This is a complex book, combining autobiography with fantasy, history and fiction. Ruth Ozeki is the protagonist and the tale starts where she finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox which contained a faded-red English diary, a bundle of handwritten Japanese letters and a wrist watch of a sixteen year old girl in a plastic bag on Jap Ranch beach in the Desolation Sound near British Columbia. Actually, the cover of the book was that ofÀ La Cherche Du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust. To Ruth's utter shock and surprise, the famous author's own words got slipped to the ground somewhere earlier, like a pile of dead ants, and was replaced by a teenage girl's own words written in a purple gel ink pen, when Ruth opened it. Proust's tarnished gilt title, still visibly embossed on the cover took on new life...and in the absence of the actual content of his writings, new meaning.Hi, she read. My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is?...Oliver, Ruth's husband, understood the meaning of the time captured in the planetary gyres of the universe. Two of them flow directly towards British Columbia from Japan and diverge just off the BC coastline. "Each gyre orbits at its own speed,” he continued. “And the length of an orbit is called a tone. Isn’t that beautiful? Like the music of the spheres. The longest orbital period is thirteen years, which establishes the fundamental tone. The Turtle Gyre has a half tone of six and a half years. The Aleut Gyre, a quarter tone of three. The flotsam that rides the gyres is called drift. Drift that stays in the orbit of the gyre is considered to be part of the gyre memory. The rate of escape from the gyre determines the half-life of drift . . .” He picked up the Hello Kitty lunchbox and turned it over in his hands. “All that stuff from people’s homes in Japan that the tsunami swept out to sea? They’ve been tracking it and predicting it will wash up on our coastline. I think it’s just happening sooner than anyone expected.”The author of the new story inside Marcel Prost's In Search of Lost Time's cover, was Naoko Yusatan, or just Nao, a fifteen-year-old Japanese girl who used to live in the USA but had to return with her parents to Japan after the Dot-Com bust. It left her dad somewhat suicidal, but don't worry, this honorable ambition is fully explained in the book. Yao, the Japanese teenager, had a problem when she opened the shell of Marcel Proust's revamped philosophical masterpiece the first time. She skipped school that day, like many other days, and was sipping a Blue Mountain coffee in Fifi's Lovely Apron, a maid café in Akiba, after buying the book in a handicraft boutique in Harajuku. For several days already, the ghost of Proust was preventing her from writing girly stuff in his once revered book. The book was now filled with creamy blank pages on which a new story could begin. She needed to tell her story of physical abuse and bullying at her new school, but could not find the words. The blank pages invited her to write, as an escape from it all. She want to begin a new exploration of time. Times lost and found. How do you waste time? Can you lose time and then find it again? She waited and waited, but HER words did not come. A philosophical dilemma.Weird, right? I mean, there I was, sitting in a French maid café in Akiba, thinking about lost time, and old Marcel Proust was sitting in France a hundred years ago, writing a whole book about the exact same subject. So maybe his ghost was lingering between the covers and hacking into my mind, or maybe it was just a crazy coincidence, but either way, how cool is that? I think coincidences are cool, even if they don’t mean anything, and who knows? Maybe they do! I’m not saying everything happens for a reason. It was more just that it felt as if me and old Marcel were on the same wavelength. Eventually she figured out that she had to write something important for her words to come. Like, the life story of her great-grandmother: Yasutani Jiko, the famous anarchist-feminist-novelist-turned-Buddhist-nun of the Taisho era, who lives in remote mountains and don't have time to die, because she had to pray for all the stuff Yao is telling her about in her letters. The Taishö Democracy was in interesting era for women. One hundred and four years old at the last count, Old Jika was a busy nun. She understood time.The idea of the time being comes from a book called Shōbōgenzō that an ancient Zen master named Dōgen Zenji wrote about eight hundred years ago, which makes him even older than old Jiko or even Marcel Proust. Dōgen Zenji is one of Jiko’s favorite authors, and he’s lucky because his books are important and still kicking around. Unfortunately, everything Jiko wrote is out of print so I’ve actually never read her words, but she’s told me lots of stories, and I started to think about how words and stories are time beings, too, and that’s when the idea popped into my mind of using Marcel Proust’s important book to write down my old Jiko’s life.Nao became the link between two time beings to meet after Old Jiko's story landed up as flotsam on the planetary gyres which would connect the history of Jiko, with the time span of Ruth in the small village of Whaletown on Desolation Island. Can there be gyres of words? Does it have a tone? Somewhere through the currents of time, and by drifting through new strings of words, this tale reaches the reader - another time being waiting to connect. Only, the tales colliding in this book had each their own orbiting speed, and came from two very different directions. In the end each story released its time for the reader to form a new time being within a new tale where the letters aligned neatly in the new meaning and tone.Perhaps there was no reason why Yao's drifting package, either as flotsam(the tragedy of the tsunami) or jetsam ( cry for help, and thus planned), would end up at the south end of the beach near Jap Ranch. It was one of the most beautiful places on the island and once belonged to a Japanese family, before they were interned during WWII. And perhaps it was incidental that Ruth, half Japanese herself, should find it, while a Jungle Crow, corvus japonensis, the Japanese crow, appeared in line of sight for Oliver. In a time when blogging was the in-thing, where millions of lonely people write their lonely blogs and don't have time to read each other's since they were too busy blogging, a flotsam package arrived which would talk to one person only. Real time. A real purpose. But wait, throw in Schrödinger's cat; quantum mechanics; Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu - the incredibly long story with thousands of pages in different volumes, with the last one titled Le temps retrouvé, which means Time Regained; Dōgen's masterwork, Shōbōgenzō, or the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye; Pesto the cat; a tsunami; Zen Budhism; the events of 9/11; climate change; the rich ecosystems of Desolation Island providing a deeper dimension to the story; as well as the autobiographical journey of Ruth Ozaki in writing a novel after ten years of constant writer's block. The novel with herself in it, ended up being this one. The title is derived from the English title of Chapter 11 of the Shōbōgenzō. From Wikipedia:("Treasury of the True Dharma Eye") is the title most commonly used to refer to the collection of works written in Japanese by the 13th century Japanese Buddhist monk and founder of the Japanese Sōtō Zen school, Eihei Dōgen. Several other works exist with the same title (see above), and it is sometimes called the Kana Shōbōgenzō in order to differentiate it from those. The term shōbōgenzō can also more generally as a synonym for the Buddha Dharma as viewed from the perspective of Mahayana Buddhism.Japanese culture, philosophical magic, two family stories. That's the plot. Information dumping lessened my enjoyment of the book. Overall it is an interesting read. The meandering into philosophical opinion and conclusions(lecturing), instead of a strong story ending - which already took place way earlier in the last few chapters, resulted in falling stars. Does a novel need a philosophical ending, instead of a denouement of the story?Time itself is being, he wrote, and all being is time . . . In essence, everything in the entire universe is intimately linked with each other as moments in time, continuous and separate, says Dōgen in Shōbōgenzō. A pine tree is time, Dōgen had written, and bamboo is time. Mountains are time. Oceans are time, he continued. Ruth Ozeki tried to explain it in this book - if you allow magic to intervene.An interesting concept. Worth exploring. A good read. I thought this novel was an ambitious undertaking, but the author pulled it through, although Ruth's character came across as a means to an end, and that is to deliver a boring lecture on quantum physics. Yoa's story line was excellent. Perfect title.

  • Eve
    2019-02-02 19:50

    "In reality, every reader, while he is reading, is the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument, which he offers to the reader to permit him to discern what, without the book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself. The reader’s recognition in his own self of what the book says is the proof of its truth."Can I just say (Of course you can. Who's stopping you?) that this book blew my mind! I have that ridiculous Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures expression on my face. Did I just travel through time and back in the weeks it took me to finish this book? Way!Like a Matryoshka doll, Ozeki slowly unravels tale after tale in a mysterious and magical way. After a diary and letters wash up on the Canadian island where Ruth and her husband Oliver live, they begin piecing together a series of intertwined lives and narratives from the diary, and its 16-year-old Japanese author, Naoko. Although a work of fiction, I liked that Ruth and her husband live seemingly identical lives to the author, Ozeki; this gives the book an almost autobiographical feel to it.There's not too much more I can say without giving away any of the plot, but just trust that you will be in for a real, unpredictable ride. I felt like I was reading a Murakami book and watching Cosmos and an after school special all at the same time! Ozeki is a genius, and although there were quite a few scientific concepts about time and physics that were a bit over my head, I felt like she held my hand all the way through it, going to the extent of including kind little appendices. She's so sweet!I had tried reading this book on several occasions, but was never really at a place where I could dedicate the time and attention it required. I am so glad I didn't force myself to get through it at that point! It was a wonderful book, and I empathized with Ruth when she read the final page of the diary."She turned the final page. The words continued, she read them to the end, and then at the bottom of the page, they stopped. There was no doubt about it. There were no more words and no more pages. Books end. Why was she surprised?"

  • Aaron T.
    2019-01-22 19:46

    What a mess. I mean, a mess. There's so much excessive writing here, I was astounded at the sheer lack of editing and pruning--which this read needs a lot of.That was the first that annoyed me. Details that are so stupid and repetitive, meaningless fodder that is in the way of getting on with a story. I was astounded at how there was no real story here. A lot of good writing, albeit excessive, that goes nowhere.A good 200 pages could have been excised, and maybe there would besomething worth reading.

  • Aubrey
    2019-01-25 18:30

    If a train that travels 3 kilometers per minute goes y kilometers in x minutes, then…etc., my mind would go numb and all I could think about was how a body would look at the moment of impact, and the distance a head might be thrown on the tracks, and how far the blood would spatter.Listen up. The world doesn't live on humanity.Japan isn’t a great thing to be a free anything, because free just means all alone and out of it.Listen up. The world doesn't give a fuck about you."To a writer, this is so funny. To send a word, instead of a body!Listen up. The world runs on ciphers. The world runs on manipulating the data of inheritance and habitus into the machine of freedom, the end-all exchange of your life for your money, your morals for your bread, your peace for your survival. Heritage lives on in you in fear of the future, and the future is vast and pitiful, for everyone knows which heritages are worth most in the long run. Everyone learns early on that an income is only guaranteed by how quickly one may transcribe the weight of a human life into a point, the point into statistics, the statistics into a graph, ending with an overheard conversation of mine where one white male engineer told another white male engineer that he had it all wrong, the car wasn't screwed up just because three people died in accidents caused by the same flaw, you didn't need to pull back production and pay out the gains and suffer a loss for a paltry number of fatalities that didn't even amount to a standard deviation on the scale of sales over time. I should know, he said. I've been working for thirty years.But later on, maybe days or months or even years later, the reality of what they’d done would start to rise up to the surface, and they would be twisted up with pain and anger and take it out on themselves and their families. That also would be my fault.I quit bioengineering because I could do it. Understand? I quit bioengineering because my options were making a shitton of money at one company with military contracts or making a shitton of money at another company with a history of poisoning the environment or making a shitton of money at yet another powered by people preferring to amputate their selves through drugs in order to fit, to stay in, to save lives in order of those who could afford it rather than in an effort to give to those who need it. I quit bioengineering because it got to me, and I could go back if I medicated myself into a walking coma of math and pseudoethics and a rhetoric that never ever ever incorporated empathy in its millenias of history, but I won't. I won't, I won't, I won't."Now, who did you say we are at war with?”Good question. At this very, very moment, this instant of time, this time of being, do you know whose time is ending? Here in the US, I certainly don't, not with the school to prison pipeline instate and the colonialism out, and with capitalism doing fine and dandy among the corporations and the drones and the taxes, I'd have a hell of a time finding out. If you look between the lines and past the whitewashing in schools from coast to coast, they'll teach you awareness of the fuel this democracy runs on, this country that grew physically through the genocide of one wealth of nations and financially through the enslavement of another, but they won't tell you what to do with it. They won't give you any sign that you are expected, as an adult, as a full fledged human being, as an upstanding member of society, to actively question this betrayal of freedom, of dignity, of the pursuit of happiness, which every fiber and action of your relative being. No. They see that you pay, they see that you receive your little paper, and they see that you leave with minimum fuss, for universities have a reputation and sales record to maintain, didn't you know, and anyone who falls between the cracks of attempted suicide, rape culture, and hate crimes just isn't good for press release.Jiko looked out across the ocean to where the water met the sky. "A wave is born from deep conditions of the ocean," she said. "A person is born from deep conditions of the world. A person pokes up from the world and rolls along like a wave, until it is time to sink down again. Up, down. Person, wave."I found my function through literature. I did, I did, I did. I reconciled my need for economic support with my need for propagating social justice, my equation for living with my reason to be, my privileges that I have with the privileges that I don't, and I hold that it should be this way for everyone. However, I don't hold with the notion that everyone should do it my way. I don't hold with the term "slacktivism", for explicate to me, please, the exact parameters of your definition, the constitutional efficacy of your concept, the fucking point of poking those who operate through means other than marches on the capital in the eye, as if only certain breeds of solidarity were deemed valid in the eyes of the holier-than-thou. As if everyone were capable as you, social justice warrior, to take off work, to take off thinking, to take off living in the way they've found works best in order to fulfill your narrow notions of just what it means to be "effective" in the social arena. The ripples of the new generation operate on electromagnetic waves far less concrete and observable than your sit-in protests, and if even science can't observe and measure at the same time, how do you expect to?Nothing made him happier than planting baby trees.It is a matter of not hurting people.Slowly she turned herself around, pivoting on her knees, until finally she was facing me. “I asked for you,” she said.“For me?”“So you could hear the answer.”It is a matter of listening to people."No," he said. "I'm not dead yet.”It is a matter of living. It is a matter of learning without expecting instantaneous results. It is a matter of time being and respecting that time being for any and all systems both human and ecological, animal and psychological. It is a matter of knowing the difference between being dead and being alive, for dead is dead is dead unless, of course, you've passed something along. You've programmed a tool for activists, you've written a book for thinkers and believers in peace, you've expressed an idea of war never being acceptable under any circumstance so long as the life of a single being has value to someone via speech, via post, via like. Do not tell me that certain efforts to advocate something that values well being over profit do not "count"; if a successful career in bioengineering can't tempt me into treating deaths as justifiable statistical error, neither can you.

  • Wan
    2019-02-19 02:46

    Here are a few trigger warning topics to be aware of in this book (stop reading if you don't want to know):-Bullying/Hazing-Suicide-Depression-Attempted Rape-Child ProstitutionYes, all of that crammed into 432 pages. Here's the thing- I don't mind reading about characters going through abuse. It exists and we shouldn't ignore it. But when there's no plot advancing and it's just chapter after chapter about someone getting abused? It gets taxing. It's as if the author went, Hmm how am I going to torture Nao today?Some problematic things that bugged me:-Every young female mentioned (from the main character's pov) has it out for her. They're either scheming and finding ways to humiliate her or they're all vapid. I mean if that isn't one of the the biggest YA tropes I don't know what is. -The hazing scenes were so extreme that I find it hard to believe that no adult would have stepped in. Especially when things happened on school grounds and in classrooms. Sure a lot of things go unreported but the fact that these terrible things were posted on the internet for all to see, *someone* would have reported it. What's even worse is that Nao bullies someone herself yet that gets brushed over.Other things that bugged me:-Schrödinger's cat. Can books stop mentioning this, please? -The pretentious questions about time. I much prefer it when the reader gets to make up their own questions instead of having it presented to them so blatantly. -If the island were a character, it would be more developed than Ruth- the other character in this book. I felt like I was reading an almanac and not an actual story. I kept waiting for Ruth to be developed but it never happened. After finishing, did I care if Nao lived or died? Nope.

  • Mariah
    2019-02-12 18:43

    I read this for the Goodreads' Book Club Diversity in All Forms! If you would like to join the discussion here is the link: would rate this book 4.5 stars, because at the end it seemed really fictional. But the rest was really enjoyable. I lived in Japan for the summer of 2014 and my best friend there was named Nao, just like the main character in this book. This book brought back some really great and painful memories, so I appreciated the at a huge level."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."I highly recommend this book!

  • Sue
    2019-01-25 02:40

    I've just finished reading and really enjoyed this book with all of it's complexities. I enjoyed entering Ruth/Nao's world/worlds with all the speculation that entails. I am also drawn to much in Buddhist thought, though I really know little in that area, so the inclusion of so much Zen Buddhist thought is another plus for me.In the basic story line, a plastic bag washes up on the shore of an island off British Columbia. In it, Ruth, an author, finds, among other things, a diary written by a Japanese teenager describing her difficult life. From there the complexities grow.All fiction requires a certain leap of faith from the reader and Ozeki certainly requests a super-leap, one that I was quite willing to make. I feel she rewarded me well with a novel brimming with concepts and approaches that are new to me, certainly new within this form of writing.I also liked the tensions between the possible "Ruths": there is the Ruth who is still mourning the loss of her mother; the Ruth who is/has been trying to write a memoir but finds herself unable to write; the Ruth who apparently is having trouble with her memory (is this a latent fear of Alzheimers?). Then of course, there is the woman we know as the author Ruth Ozeki. Every alternate in this book seems to have an alternate and this is .... well, it just kept me reading. For me this novel is a vehicle for so many layers of meaning that I believe I will be thinking about it for a while and probably will read it again. I may even return and revise this review to conform with my later appraisal of the book or some random thought on the essence of time or now. But for this "now", I believe I am finished.If you are seeking writing of objective reality without the glimmer of possibles, look elsewhere. Otherwise, this might be for you.

  • jo
    2019-02-13 23:35

    this book is about suicide. it says so in the first couple of pages so i'm not giving anything away. i know a lot about suicide. i am not an anti-suicide person. if someone feels it's their time to go; if they feel the pain is too much; if they have suffered long and terribly and see no end in sight, i say, goodbye my friend. in my modest personal experience, these people, the people with so much damage in them they find life a terrible ordeal day after fucking day tend to die early-ish anyway. so many prolonged suicides. you all know what i'm talking about. amy winehouse, michael jackson.ruth ozeki is not only a remarkable and brave writer, but also a buddhist priest. when writers manage to take buddhism and transform it into great story-telling, the result is breathtaking. i'm thinking about maxine hong kingston's The Fifth Book of Peace.this book is also about time. it's about Time in the big sense of time and quantum theory and all the stuff that lies at the intersection of physics and new age, insofar as new age is a corruption of both physics and buddhism. this plays a small part in the book. but it's also about time in the sense of what we do with it, how we experience it, and how we tolerate it. in this sense, it's a great, great book to read during the holidays (which is when i read it) because the holidays are all about tolerating time.also, and crucially for this reader, this is a kick ass story, told in alternating chapters by a japanese teenager who spent the first 15 years of her life in sunnyvale, california, and a japanese american writer (who goes by the name of ruth and resembles the author in just about every respect we are able to detect) who found the girl's diary and notes in a message-in-a-bottle set of hermetically sealed ziplock bags which may or may not have drifted all the way from fukushima as a consequence of the tsunami.the voice of the teenager is fantastic and brave and occasionally hilarious. the third person narrative about the writer and her semi-happy semi-frustrating life on an island in british columbia is also delightful because so naked and authentic. zen priests (which, in truth, ruth-the-character isn't) are not immune to frustrations, bad moods, marital arguments, petty moments and, you'll be glad to hear, internet addiction.ozeki interweaves a number of threads: the suicidal teenager and her ordeals, and the impatient writer and her ordeals (which trials weigh more? which are more legitimate?); naoko's great-grandmother the buddhist nun jiko, who's 104 and cleary knows how to live, and that other buddhist, ruth-the-character but also, always, ruth-the-author, who struggles with power outages, writer's block, a stubborn kitty cat, a loving but complex couple relation, and the hardships of living on an island in the pacific northwest while missing the vitality and mess of new york. who is more successful at living the buddhist life? the nun who left everything and lives in serene, accepting contentment or the struggling writer who is trying to change things with her work?that way i read this book, there is no right, no simple way. old jiko, the role model, the saint, honors everyone's difficulties equally, and does not forget her own. this is, after all, a book about suicide, and time, which also means that it's a book about inevitable failing. you pick up the piece and carry on. if you can. for now. for the time being.***this review does so little justice to the impact this book had on me. i was moved to tears. i laughed with my entire body. i read as slowly as i could. i thought to myself, i want to meet ruth ozeki: will she want another friend? please god let her want me as a friend. i was immensely grateful that ruth's husband, oliver, suffers from a flu-like illness that disables him greatly and from which he gets better only after he and ruth move to the vastly under-civilized island in the pacific northwest. i also suffer from a flu-like illness. should i move to an under-civilized island where it rains 10 months of the year and one has to cut one's own wood, power one's own generator (regular storms fell power lines all the time, and the hydro can fly in only when the storm has passed), and walk to the post office to get one's mail? i don't want to. i wouldn't know how to survive. but: how will i get better? how are we all going to get better?ruth deals with bills, sneaks in a nasty comment which she immediately regrets about her husband's poor contributions to the household finances (the word she uses is "loser:" ouch!). naoko is vindictive to her classmates and she and her mom are quite uncharitable towards naoko's dad, a hikikomori who longs for suicide. there is nastiness and short-temperedness. how will we all get better? how will we save the planet from self-destruction, from war, from terribly devastating tsunamis and even more devastating, because man-made, defective nuclear power plants? how can we reverse time to before 9/11 and the birth of the global war on terror? what are we to do about the gigantic garbage patches, the largest of which may be as big as the entire united states?this book tackles all of this, which makes it a miracle of narrative restraint, condensation, and easy fluency. it reminded me a little of Maxine Hong Kingston, of course, but also of Milan Kundera, whom it explicitly names, and David Mitchell, whom it doesn't. how do these writers do it? how do they manage to put the grand entirety of the personal and collective misery of the world in a book about a japanese haulden caulfield who is bullied at school and a japanese american writer with writer's block?so this is what i leave you with. thank whomever you thank when the world goes the right way for old jiko (fictional), ruth ozeki (nonfictional) and pope francis (also nonfictional), the latter of whom, like jiko, sees and knows the most abject misery (personal and collective) yet keeps reminding us to be joyful and hopeful, and models this joy and hope every day. you can, maybe, be joyful and hopeful even when things go terribly wrong, when you get hit in the teeth, when life bites into your heart like an animal trap with sharp, rusty teeth. you don't need to do anything. just live, for now, for the time being.

  • Amanda
    2019-01-25 20:40

    3 1/2 StarsYou know that experience when you learn something new and only a few days later, references to it start popping up in the most unexpected of places: a television program, a book you're reading, a song on the radio, a friend mentions it in conversation? It's like the universe made certain you knew about this fact or concept because there was fixing to be a pop quiz over it and you needed to be ready. It's these types of connections and coincidences that make up A Tale for the Time Being. While it at first seems as though the novel is filled with sometimes irrelevant facts and digressions, just hang in there--Ruth Ozeki weaves them all together in a tale that serves as a metaphor for how writing and reading, or the interaction between writer and reader, can help us see ourselves in the life of another and ultimately save us from isolation and existential angst.A Tale for the Time Being alternates between two women who, at first, seem very different: Ruth, a writer living on a small Canadian island, and Nao, a teenager living in Japan. When Ruth finds Nao's diary in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, their worlds defy time and space to collide in unexpected ways. The diary, however, is far more serious and sophisticated than its cartoonish packaging might lead one to believe. Written inside of a "hacked" copy of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu (Nao purchases it in a craft shop in Tokyo that takes old books, guts them, and inserts new paper), Nao directly addresses her unknown reader as one would a close confidant and introduces herself as a time being, one who is aware of and chooses to exist in every moment in time, though it is becoming more and more difficult for her to do so. While reading the diary, Ruth becomes obsessed with finding the girl--at first for fear that Nao may have been a victim of the 2011 tsunami, but later for fear that she is a danger to herself. The diary allows us to experience Nao's unique voice as she relates her inability to fit into her new culture, her father's descent into depression after losing his job in the U.S., and the brutal, horrific bullying she endures at the hands of her classmates and teachers. As her diary goes on, the faux title begins to prove true: Nao is becoming more lost as time goes on. As Ruth reads the diary and desperately searches for Nao, we learn about her life as well and find that the two women overlap in surprising ways: both are Japanese-Americans, both are transplants to a place and culture not their own, both have somewhat strained relationships with the men in their lives, both have strong connections to a revered female elder, both feel a failed sense to accomplish what they want in their writing, both have an expatriate's experience of 9/11, both worry about losing time. Nao's name often functions as a pun on the word "Now," leading to overlapping meanings as to what both Ruth and Nao, feeling stuck in time, may really be searching for--hope for a "now" in which they can fully exist without being immobilized by fear, worry, or sorrow. While I enjoyed the book, I can't say that I loved it. Ozeki's meditations on time and existence are beautifully rendered, but sometimes difficult to understand as they rely upon the reader to retain information from previous chapters when they are echoed in later events. There is so much here and so much that I don't fully comprehend. For not only is this a story about relationships, but it's also one about the concept of time, especially as it relates to zen and quantum physics. Ozeki plays with the idea of parallel universes, of time and existence as nonlinear. While I was able to keep up with the general idea, I still feel like there's a whole layer of meaning that I kept grasping for without success. This is a book that I think I could really love upon a second or third reading as I think more and more tumblers would fall into place and allow me to really unlock the full depth of meaning here.Surprisingly, though, I had the opposite reaction to many readers in that I often found the Ruth chapters more compelling than the Nao chapters. Nao's diary doesn't really read like a diary; instead it reads like a first person narrative. And, yeah, okay, a diary is a first person narrative, but it usually doesn't read like a novel as it's more bare bones in terms of physical details, focusing more on the emotional inner life of its writer. Nao's voice also reads more like that of an adult; for a teenager, she is very precocious and while the details of her life as an adolescent are rendered authentically, she herself doesn't sound much like a teen. In Ruth, Ozeki excels at capturing the subtle seismic shifts in a marriage and, if one pays close attention, there's much about Ruth that makes her the perfect recipient for Nao's diary. I also enjoyed the tension created by whether or not Ruth will be successful in her search for Nao--especially since the Nao she is looking for is one of the past and may or may not exist in the present, regardless of whether or not she can be physically found.Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder and at Shelf Inflicted

  • Vonia
    2019-01-27 22:45

    I loved this books for so many different reasons. The Japanese Culture, from their traditions to their philosophies on life to family values to folklore to deep familial traditions has always intrigued me. Psychology; a young suicidal girl's tenacity to tell the story of the grandmother she loves. Time, space, relativity with quantum physics. Buddhism philosophies to live life for the moment (Because, "... memories are time beings... for a while they are beautiful, and then they fade and die."). Without overwhelming the story, Ruth Ozeki somehow managed to incorporate all these things into A Tale For The Time Being. Then added some more unexpected bonuses. Our dear narrator for most of the novel, serves as our guide to all of this. Naoako Yasutani. I love her personality. She reminds me of myself, actually. Fierce, persevering, despite the sad hand The Game Of Life has graced her with. "The way you write Ronin is 浪人 with the character for wave and the character for person, which is pretty much how I feel, like a little wave person, floating around on the stormy sea of life," she says. A suicidal father, being tortured at school, a mother whom is a little absent. She identifies her home as Sunnyvale, in Northern California, which is pretty damn close to where I was born & raised. Once relocated to Japan, she struggles to survive. Her comparisons to California, her discussions about technology, are all priceless. "I’m pretty healthy and I don’t mind the idea of dying, but I also don’t want to get mowed down by some freaky high school kid in a trench coat who’s high on Zoloft and has traded in his Xbox for a semiautomatic." She goes by Nao for short, pronounced "now". Another aspect of this book that I love. Ozeki's tangents on linguistics. Nao, for example, likes to say "Nooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwww" so as to not defeat the purpose of the word, because,“in the time it takes to say now, now is already over. It's already then.” She is later able to recreate this sound with a (Taiko) drum. “When you beat a drum, you create NOW, when silence becomes a sound so enormous and alive it feels like you’re breathing in the clouds and the sky, and your heart is the rain and the thunder. Jiko says that this is an example of the time being. Sound and no-sound. Thunder and silence.” The book begins with Nao introducing herself to the other heroine of the story, Ruth, who finds her diary (hidden in Proust's Le Temps Retrouve, "In Search Of Lost Time") washed up on the shore. Along with the diary, protected by a Hello Kitty bento box is a watch that belongs to her courageous uncle Haruki Yasutani, forced to become a kamikaze pilot, as well as his secret diary, written in French.“...I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you. 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....Maybe by now you're wondering about me, too.You wonder about me.I Wonder about you.Who are you and what are you doing?” ... If you decide not to read anymore, hey, no problem, because you're not the one I was waiting for anyway. But if you decide to read on, then guess what? You're my kind of time being and together we'll make magic!” From Proust,"In reality, every reader, while he is reading, is the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument, which he offers to the reader to permit him to discern what, without the book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself. The reader’s recognition in his own self of what the book says is the proof of its truth." Yet another linguistics tangent reveals the truth in this, in the very autobiographical nature of many works by writers. Ruth is an academic, a writer working on her memoir. She has been working on it for years now, unable to find what she needs to continue. Ruth is married to Oliver, a somewhat autistic environmental scientist. The last member of the family is their cat Pesto, even though its full name is Schrodinger. They live in a remote island in Vancouver, Canada; Whaletown, to be precise. If any of this seems familiar, our author is named Ruth. Ruth Ozeki is also married to an Oliver. And is also Japanese, now identified Canadian. The name Ruth is actually paradoxical bilingual pun. It can mean, in Japanese, "roots", otherwise, "absence"). This is also a book about writers, then. Which led to a further intensified need to quotify (definition: to save, for future reference, the splenderifous sentences, lines, paragraphs, passages written in a most appreciated text in an effort to commemorate its illustriousness for eternity) this whole damn text, being not only a certified reader, but also an amateur writer. “I find myself drawn to literature more now than in the past; not the individual works as much as the idea of literature—the heroic effort and nobility of our human desire to make beauty of our minds—which moves me to tears, and I have to brush them away, quickly, before anyone notices.”The contrast between such loving, heart warming things and the dark topics covered by Ozeki still amazes me. Why amazes? because usually that causes an imbalance. But somehow, under Ozeki's guidance, it made the whole better than the sum of its parts. What dark side? To name a few of the main ones, child abuse, attempted rape, some serious bullying, depressions, suicide, prostitution, war, death, hate crimes, genocide.... “I believe it doesn't matter what it is, as long as you can find something concrete to keep you busy while you are living your meaningless life.” “She missed the built environment of New York City. It was only in an urban landscape, amid straight lines and architecture, that she could situate herself in human time and history. She missed people. She missed human intrigue, drama and power struggles. She needed her own species, not to talk to, necessarily, but just to be among, as a bystander in a crowd or an anonymous witness.” “A free man, that is to say, a man who lives according to the dictates of reason alone, is not led by fear of death, but directly desires the good, that is to say, desires to act, and to preserve his being in accordance with the principle of seeking his own profit. He thinks, therefore, of nothing less than death, and his wisdom is a meditation upon life.” "As shame is not a pleasant feeling, and some Japanese politicians are always trying to change our children’s history textbooks so that these genocides and tortures are not taught to the next generation. By changing our history and our memory, they try to erase all our shame.” "We were soldiers, but even before we were showed how to kill our enemies, they taught us how to kill ourselves.... At one point in my life, I learned how to think. I used to know how to feel. In war, these are lessons best forgotten." "How much can you really trust the promise of a suicidal father?" For Ozeki to have written so eloquently on such matters, yet allow the reader to turn the very last page with sadness that it is over ("She turned the final page.... There was no doubt about it. There were no more words and no more pages. Books end. Why was she surprised?"), but content with the overall heart warming ending, is quite the accomplishment.Buddhism, Zen, Zazen meditation. Also never one for such philosophies before, Ozeki has gifted me the opportunity to be more open to the ideas. Nao's grandmother, a Buddhist monk, her introduction to the Zen philosophies,as written by Zen master Dogen. Jiko Yasutani. Naokoa loves her. We can all see why. "What was there to say? She knew I loved her. Sometimes you do not need words to say what is in your heart." ".... Something about not knowing being the most intimate way... Maybe it is true, even though I do not really like uncertainty. I would much rather know, but then again, not knowing leaves all the possibilities open. It keeps all the worlds alive." Slowly she turned herself around, pivoting on her knees, until finally she was facing me. “I asked for you,” she said.“For me?”“So you could hear the answer.” “She sat back on her heels and nodded. The thought experiment she proposed was certainly odd, but her point was simple. Everything in the universe was constantly changing, and nothing stays the same, and we must understand how quickly time flows by if we are to wake up and truly live our lives. That’s what it means to be a time being, old Jiko told me... And just like that, you die.” “Life is fleeting. Don't waste a single moment of your precious life. Wake up now! And now! And now!” One of my favorite, if not the favorite scene from the novel.... “‘Have you ever bullied a wave?’ Jiko asked me at the beach. "There was no one around, except for a couple of surfers way down the beach. I took old Jiko’s stick in my hand and walked and then ran to the edge of the ocean, waving it above my head like a kendo sword. The waves were big, breaking on the beach, and I ran into the first one that came at me, yelling kiayaeeeee! like a samurai going into battle. I smacked the wave with the stick, cutting through it, but the water kept coming. I ran back up the beach and escaped, but the next one knocked me over. I got to my feet and attacked again and again, and each time the water crashed down on top of me, grinding me against the rocks and covering me with foam and sand. I didn't mind. The sharp cold felt good, and the violence of the waves felt powerful and real, and the bitterness of salt in my nose tasted harshly delicious... Over and over, I ran at the sea, beating it until I was so tired I could barely stand. And then the next time I fell down, I just lay there and let the waves wash over me..."Maketa,” I said, throwing myself down in the sand. “I lost. The ocean won.” She smiled. “Was it a good feeling?”“Mm,” I said.“That’s good,” she said. “Have another rice ball?"""Surfer, wave, same thing.""That's just stupid, " I said. " A surfer's a person. A wave is a wave. How can they be the same?"Jiko looked out across the ocean to where the water met the sky. "A wave is born from deep conditions of the ocean. A person is born from deep conditions of the world. A person pokes up from the world and rolls along like a wave, until it is time to sink down again. Up, down. Person, wave. ... We walked back to the bus stop together, holding hands again. I was still thinking about what she said about waves, and it made me sad because I knew that her little wave was not going to last and soon she would join the sea again, and even though I know you can't hold on to water , still I gripped her fingers a little more tightly to keep her from leaking away." “Together we'll make magic... Who had conjured whom? She seemed to remember Oliver suggesting this once before, but she hadn't really appreciated the importance of his question. Was she the dream? Was Nao the one writing her into being? Agency is a tricky business, Muriel had said. Ruth had always felt substantial enough, but maybe she wasn't. Maybe she was as absent as her name indicated , a homeless and ghostly composite of words that the girl had assembled. She'd never had any cause to doubt her senses. Her empirical experience of herself, seemed trustworthy enough, but now in the dark, at four in the morning, she wasn't so sure.” Like all Japanese novels it seems, dreams play a part. “What if I travel so far away in my dreams that I can't get back in time to wake up?” Magical realism. Which I have always loved. Nao meets the ghost of her uncle during Obon, one of the most important Japanese traditions for over five hundred years. A festival that takes place over three days, they believe that their ancestors' spirits come back to their homes to be reunited with their family during this time. Time travel is explored. In a magical, whimsical, fantastical, splendiferous way, but also scientifically. As in with quantum physics, time, space, relativity. Which has always been more physics than my social sciences mind could handle. Thank You, Ozeki, for explaining this to me in the context of an amazing novel, allowing my intrigue, and therefore motivation to understand, reach its utmost potential. With a most informative appendix A, B, C, D, E.... For what? To further investigate things such as Schrodinger's Cat, Quantum Mechanics (superposition (something being in two places @ once), entanglement (two things coordinating their properties across space & time), the measurement problem (also known as the observation bias, in which the mere act of measuring/observation alters what is being measured/observed)), Zen Master Dogen, Hug Everett (The man whom challenges the theory of wave collapse; his theory was that there any many worlds. Each time two possibilities are posited, the world splits. A schism occurs, branching into two worlds, then again, then again, into infinity. This "many worlds" theory exemplified his belief that everything and/or anything he could imagine would occur, otherwise already had. This is as opposed to The Copenhagen interpretation by Bohr & Heisenberg in which each time two possibilities are posited, they can be both, in two places at once (superposition). For example, Schrodinger's Cat would be simultaneously both alive & dead. Not alive in one world, dead in another. Do I really understand this very well? Could I pursue some higher education in physics? Absolutely, positively not. But I understand much better. "Interstellar" might be better on the second viewing. My favorite books of all time are the ones that transport you into another place, another time; almost another dimension. So that when you turn the last page, you warily blink, as if waking from a dream. "No, it cannot be over?" You wonder. And you realize you are back in the real world. This is exactly how it was with Ruth Ozeki's A Tale For The Time Being. More so, by writing about it, researching things that piqued my interest while reading, I attempt to forestall the waking up from the world create by the author. But it is not really a choice. I feel the need to further pursue, to express the brimming thoughts. Whether or not someone out there reads it is irrelevant (“It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they’re all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart.”). Because my love for this novel transcends that. I will end with Nao's grandmother's final words, analyzed to have some deeper meaning, when really it was advice, wise advice, for Nao & her father. “Live. For Now. For the time being.”

  • Iris
    2019-02-06 20:51

    I'm spellbound by this book. It's so thought provoking and the writing is so lyrical and melancholic. The ideas in this book will stay with me for a long time. One of my favourites, definitely!

  • Melanie
    2019-01-23 20:39

    I wish I could have read this wonderful novel of ideas in one sitting because it requires you to slow down and let its story and themes open up like a flower that takes a long time to open up and bloom. The characters are full-blooded and enticing, their struggles across time and geography deeply moving. A beautiful and poetic book about the invisible life lines that intersect and miss each other everyday, about how the past constantly lives and trembles inside us, how we should honor and remember our elders, how the acts of writing and reading both create and undo who we are, how technology brings us closer and further apart in a single breath. A philosophical novel, a coming-of-age novel, a mystery novel sprinkled with a dash of magic realism. A novel generous and bold enough to let us connect the dots or simply gaze in awe at its infinite possibilities.

  • Connie
    2019-02-19 23:40

    "A Tale for the Time Being" was one of my favorite reads from 2013, and I enjoyed rereading this unusual multilayered novel. While walking on an island beach in British Columbia, Ruth found a barnacle-encrusted plastic bag containing a Hello Kitty lunchbox with a book, a bunch of letters, and a watch inside. She and her husband theorized that it might have been caught up in the ocean currents traveling from Japan after the 2011 tsunami.The book is a copy of Proust's "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu" ("In Search of Lost Time") with the pages cut out and replaced with blank pages. It was the perfect secret diary--no one would think of looking in an old book. A teenage Japanese girl starts the diary: "Hi! My name is Nao (pronounced Now), and I am a time being." So we know that time is going to be an important element in this novel.Nao goes from being funny and irreverent to despairing to philosophical as she tells the story of her family. They had been living in Silicon Valley until her father lost his job, and they had to move back to Japan. Her father was unable to find a new job, and fell into a suicidal state because of the shame. Nao was treated as an outsider coming from America and subjected to terrible bullying. Nao also contemplated ending her life.A bright spot was a summer spent with her great grandmother, a Zen Buddist nun over a hundred years old. Jiko's Bhuddist ceremonies and philosophy bring some calmness and warmth into Nao's life. Jiko teaches her to do zagen, a meditation to enter time completely.Nao started the diary intending it to also tell the story of her great grandmother's life. Ruth, the Japanese-American reader of the diary, becomes very concerned for Nao as she reads the diary. She searches the internet for clues of what happened to the troubled family. The letters, which were written by Nao's great uncle in World War II, were heartbreaking and a glimpse into the brutal training of kamikaze pilots.Ruth is a semi-autobiographical character. The author does live in an island community in British Columbia with her husband Oliver. He also serves as a character, giving the readers some interesting science information and acting as a sounding board for Ruth. The author is also an ordained Zen Bhuddist priest.Although the novel touches on some serious subjects, there is an element of humor that runs through it. The story shifts from past to present, and from reality to the magical. It combines Proust, Zen philosophy, quantum physics, Japanese culture, and historic events. It was a little strange to have magical realism explained by quantum mechanics, but it was creative idea. Overall, it was the good storytelling and interesting characters that produced a book that I didn't want to end.

  • Lou
    2019-01-24 23:45

    Magical storytelling within these pages, humanity in its many shades played out in a great tale with wonderful memorable characters pitted against adversity with bravery, patience and resilience.Very stark true and brutal realities dealt with in this story of one girl. The author done well in painting her canvas and successfully left me with two vivid opposite images, one peace and spirit and another of cold brutality, scenes from these pages may linger with you and you may be moved and thought provoked. When you sleep you may dream of the young girl trapped in a web of brutal bullying, exploitation, and suicide and then you may turn in your sleep having a strange nightmare of Extra Terrestrial like frail woman walking around naked, which all come from scenes of the young souls life in this tale.The author has the spotlight on very serious and plaguing issues in society such as suicide, bullying, and our universe with humor in the young girls narrative. This is told in first person narrative and has a great connection with the reader right from the get go your are called to account and become immersed and embedded in the story. A mediation work in some ways, on time and memory, a glorious splendor on courage and the beauty of humanity against the darkness of the heart.A read that will be hitting a lot of best of 2013 lists! Original and an important work of literary fiction that is long overdue and needed in today’s tidal wave and onslaught of adversities that humanity faces.Storytelling with slices of darkness and light, yin and yang, a sheer work of brilliance.“Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader’s eye. Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.” “When old Jiko talks about the past, her eyes get all inward-turning, like she’s staring at something buried deep inside her body in the marrow of her bones. Her eyes are milky and blue because of her cataracts, and when she turns them inward, its like she’s moving into another world thats frozen deep inside ice, Jiko calls her cataracts Kuuge which means “flowers of emptiness.” I think thats beautiful.” “Sometimes when grown-ups are talking to you, and you stare back at them, they start to like they’re inside one of those old-fashioned TV sets, the kind with the thick dark glass, and you can see their mouths moving, only the exact words get drowned out into a lot of staticky white noise so you can barely understand them, which didn’t matter because I wasn’t listening anyway. Mom was talking on and on like a breakfast TV show host, and Muji was burping and trilling like a drunken sparrow, and Jiko was pretending to sleep, Dad was exhaling clouds of cigarette smoke into my clean underpants that were still hanging on the laundry line because in all the excitement Id forgotten to take them down,but none of this mattered because I was deep inside my mind, which is where I go when things get too intense.” ‘ ‘Tomorrow I will die in battle,’ said Captain Crow. Montaigne wrote that death itself is nothing. It is only the fear of death that makes death seem important. Am I afraid? Certainly, and yet… “Que sais-je?” Montaigne asked. The answer is nothing. In reality, I know nothing. And yet, at night I lie on my bed, counting my beads, one for every thing on earth I love, on and on, in a circle without end.” “Making the decision to end my life really helped me lighten up, and suddenly all the stuff my old Jiko had told me about the time being really kicked into focus. There’s nothing like realising that you don’t have much time left to stimulate your appreciation for the moments of your life. I mean it sounds corny, but I started to really experience stuff for the first time, like the beauty of the plum and cherry blossoms along the avenues in Ueno Park, when the trees are in bloom. I spent whole days there, wandering up and down these long, soft tunnels of pink clouds and gazing overhead at the fluffy blossoms, all puffy and pink with little sparkles of sunlight and blue sky glinting between the bright green leaves. Time disappeared and it was like being born into the world all over again. Everything was perfect. When a breeze blew, petals rained down on my upturned face, and I stopped and gasped, stunned by the beauty and sadness.”Review and Author official video interview and book trailer @

  • BrokenTune
    2019-02-06 19:38

    “Do you think Nao is alive?” Ruth asked. “Hard to say. Is death even possible in a universe of many worlds? Is suicide? For every world in which you kill yourself, there’ll be another in which you don’t, in which you go on living. Many worlds seems to guarantee a kind of immortality . . .” She grew impatient then. “I don’t care about other worlds. I care about this one. I care whether she’s dead or alive in this world. And I want to know how her diary and the rest of the stuff washed up here, on this island.” Do you know that moment? The one moment when you finish a book and you wish you could read it again for the first time?A Tale for the Time Being is such a book for me. Ironically, I got the book by accident as the online bookseller I placed an order with got mixed up. So, it is fair to say that the book was meant for me, in a similar way that one of the MCs, Ruth, an author (maybe even THE author) based on the coast of British Columbia, finds the diary of a fifteen year old Japanese girl washed up on the coast. From there on, nothing that is or was will be as it once seemed.I will not describe much of the plot - if you have not read this book, the story will grab you and not let go until the very end (at least). What I can say without spoiling the reading experience, tho, is that I loved, loved, loved all the characters and especially Old Jiko.She's the glue that sticks fragments of sanity to that bubble that is our insane world. I have said this before but this book has bent my mind, like origami, or time."The Zen nun Jiko Yasutani once told me in a dream that you can’t understand what it means to be alive on this earth until you understand the time being, and in order to understand the time being, she said, you have to understand what a moment is."

  • Antonomasia
    2019-02-08 00:37

    A Tale for the Time Being currently has almost twice as many Goodreads ratings as any of the other Booker longlisted books. At an average of 4.04 stars from 3200 users, people obviously like it. It has four pages of adulation from the papers at the beginning and seems to have been turning into a word-of-mouth success. But I'd barely noticed it before, just the title, and I don't think I'd even read the synopsis.I really clicked with much of it, which surprised me. The surprise of liking it wasn't because of what it was about - there was a reason I read it first and not only because it's already available quite cheaply in paperback. It's that for a long time I've assumed by default (based on the evidence of reading only a small proportion) that I won't much like Booker books, and certainly won't connect with them. That may be true of several winners I abandoned when I was younger, and Salman Rushdie in general, but several favourites of mine have been on shortlists (including Darkmans, A Month in the Country, and A David Lodge Trilogy). If this year's prize is true to form, then A Tale for the Time Being will be shortlisted but won't win.It's a very clever book: it was a compulsively easy read (though part III of IV was quite dark even by my curious standards) yet there are many layers. It's one of the most effortless and involving pieces of metafiction I can remember reading: I felt completely immersed in the story and unusually, had to keep reminding myself to look at it more closely. Usually this type of novel makes me hyper aware that I am reading a book about someone writing a book. This one is more about someone - who's also an author - reading a book, a diary, and the mechanics of construction are hidden and obliquely commented on. (Writing, this is already feeling like one of those unenjoyable wading-through-mud posts which serves only to record thoughts. Thoughts which seem to grow in volume when put into words, like a boring toy which expands in water but doesn't do anything else.)Ruth, a character based closely on the author, finds a package on the beach near her rural Canadian home. It contains a diary written by Nao, a sixteen year old Japanese girl. Chapters alternate between Ruth's life as she reads, and Nao's writing. Some of Ruth's reactions to the diary mirror (my idea of) the conventional mainstream reader's: a preoccupation with how realistic things are (she keeps trying to Google Nao and her relatives), and a sort of mother-hen smothery concern and judgementalism about an unusual or unhappy "character". It's a very cunning device for getting more people to connect with "weird" material. That makes it sound like something designed for a target market, but it actually seems completely natural. The bit about realism spoke to me. I may not be one of those reviewers who writes sentences like "This book wasn't very good because it wasn't realistic", but I do pick at details of setting or fact. A Tale for the Time Being touches on a lot of subjects I like and know a little of but don't have the specialist knowledge to answer myself when I think "Is that accurate?" Things about Japanese culture, and nature viewed scientifically. Also Proust, and there may be extra layers of meaning here available to those who've read him. After reading a couple of Goodreads reviews I'd been braced for some annoyingquantum mysticism - but what I found were explanations about quantum mechanics and the theory of parallel universes very similar to those I've heard from friends who did physics degrees, and conscious use of those ideas in fantasy elements of the story. (Including the first instance of magic realism about the internet I think I've seen in a book.) In turn that gave me more faith in the use of other topics. This is a book which contains both romanticism and geekiness and it's nice to see these together. Parallel universes and the like are a bit of a theme in fiction this year; I've already encountered them in Life After Life and The Secret Knowledge.Another criticism which mystifies me: that A Tale for the Time Being is overwritten. Perhaps these people were using a different meaning of the word. The writing is very clear and practically nothing is over-described. If you want to see 'overwritten' [i.e. an artificial or excessively elaborate, wordy style] in a new novel, have a look at Ghana Must Go.I very much liked Nao's sections. Apart from occasional lapses where she seemed to be aware that that the imagined "you" she was writing for was an older westerner, they were immersive. Her voice was very appealing; she recounts a pretty miserable life, including severe bullying, in a matter-of-fact, almost chirpy tone without leaving out interesting cultural details ... I think the best way of describing it might be to say that, without hiding things from herself, she has little self-pity. Before I read the preview, I'd wondered if Nao's diary might be hard-going like Osamu Dazai's Schoolgirl, but this was a book I kept picking up when I should have been doing other things.I haven't even mentioned Buddhism yet, one of the things that attracted me to A Tale for the Time Being and which influences the title itself. The relatively mundane content of Ruth's sections is implicitly an expression of mindfulness, and gave the book a calming, grounding effect which it wouldn't have had if it were simply Nao's story. (There's also something book-groupish about them - discussion and reflection on what we've just read - yet not as cloying as that could suggest to those who aren't fans of group reading.) Whilst it doesn't shy away from "unBuddhist" sort of content, the philosophy does ultimately pervade the book. Nao is troubled, but even at her most miserable times there's something very accepting about the way she recounts everything, which probably comes of having a Zen master for a great-grandma. The problem I have with the book is that it's pretty negative about Japanese culture other than Zen. (In so far as I can comment - I know a couple of people who lived in Japan for a while, and others who are real Japanophiles; my knowledge is low compared with theirs.) I love the way Nao talks about "weird stuff" in a way that shows it's completely normal to her. The negativity is more in the selection of what is shown, some aspects of Ruth's concern about Nao and in the conclusion. Nao spent her early life in America and misses the place. She was so engaging as a character that - especially as someone who was also very affected by a childhood move to a place I never felt at home in - I still find it hard not to say "I don't blame her". Even whilst I'm trying to comment on her as a construct. Ruth-the-character also mentions that both she and her mother "weren't very Japanese" and I daresay the author is reflecting some of her own feelings in the book. I'd read and watched so few Japanese things before recent months (not for want of recommendations) so this is a fairly superficial impression... but there are certain features of the culture which I like better than the typical American/Western approach. An acceptance of "weird" sex and of certain types of eccentricity and subculture, a more accepting and unafraid attitude to death, and an obsessive love of aesthetics which is never regarded as shallow. And a "shame culture" is, on a gut level, something I can relate to more than a "guilt culture" even if it's not much fun. The older Japanese model of conformity and duty has always sounded very stifling, but the contemporary impression of the society as having that as a (nagging) backdrop to something much more varied is interesting and, again, relatable. Lovely though A Tale for the Time Being is, I got the impression that it was trying to show all these distinctive aspects of Japanese culture (except perhaps the aesthetics) rather unfavourably. It took quite a while to become apparent, but the subtle cultural imperialism and motivational-posterness disappointed me slightly and made me hope that in 50 or 100 years time Japan hasn't become completely Americanised in its values. However (view spoiler)[it was interesting that a happy ending was only found for the characters through use of fantasy. (hide spoiler)]And breathe. (Probably whilst meditating.)