Ruth Ozeki takes readers on a journey of laughter, sorrow and enlightenment in A Tale for the Time Being. In this novel, those last two words mean something slightly different than they usually do, referring to "someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be."
On a remote island in the North Pacific, a novelist named Ruth has left her beloved New York behind for the secluded life her husband, Oliver, prefers. The transition has left Ruth feeling adrift and even resentful toward Oliver. When Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed ashore, the items inside provide welcome distraction. Oliver contends they've stumbled onto debris from the catastrophic tsunami of 2011. Ruth isn't so sure, especially when she finds the diary of 16-year-old Naoko Yasutani. Within moments, Ruth is caught up by Nao's irreverent, charismatic voice and deep despair. Nao's plan for the diary is simple: after chronicling the amazing life of her centenarian great-grandmother--an anarchist, feminist, novelist and Buddhist nun--Nao will end her own life.
Although she frequently references her great-grandmother, Nao finds the diary so cathartic she writes her own story instead. Ruth reads about Nao's father, who lost his job in America (forcing the family to return penniless to Tokyo) and subsequently embarks on a series of failed suicide attempts. She learns about the merciless bullying Nao suffers from her classmates and even a faculty member at her school. As Nao's life grows ever more out of kilter, Ruth feels desperate somehow to save her, but since the diary is 10 years old, she is too late to help--unless she can harness her power as a time being.
Ambitious and engrossing, Nao's narrative will grab readers' hearts as easily as Ruth's. The similarities between Ruth and Ozeki (My Year of Meats) certainly give us reason to wonder how deeply the parallels run between creator and creation, setting the stage for her contemplation of the malleability of reality. Zen philosophy and quantum theory mingle with Japanese pop culture as all of Ozeki's characters converge to turn each other's worlds upside down, revealing surprising truths about their inner goodness as they bring each other exactly the healing touch each of them needs. Do not miss this beautiful, intricate world or the characters who inhabit it. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads
Shelf Talker: A Zen Buddhist priest as well as a novelist, Ozeki weaves together the stories of a writer lost in life and a suicidal Japanese teenager who must reach across years to save each other.