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A Tale for the Time Being | [Ruth Ozeki]

A Tale for the Time Being

Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery. In a small cafe in Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyber-bullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place - and voice - through a diary.
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Publisher's Summary

Winner: The Kitschies - Red Tentacle novel award 2013

"Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you."

Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery. In a small cafe in Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyber-bullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place - and voice - through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.

Weaving across continents and decades, and exploring the relationship between reader and writer, fact and fiction, A Tale for the Time Being is an extraordinary novel about our shared humanity and the search for home.

©2013 Ruth Ozeki (P)2013 Canongate Books Ltd

What the Critics Say

"Bewitching, intelligent, and heartbreaking... Nao is an inspired narrator and her quest to tell her great grandmother's story, to connect with her past and with the larger world, is both aching and true. Ozeki is one of my favorite novelists and here she is at her absolute best." (Junot Diaz)

"A Tale for the Time Being is a timeless story. Ruth Ozeki beautifully renders not only the devastation of the collision between man and the natural world, but also the often miraculous results of it. She is a deeply intelligent and humane writer who offers her insights with a grace that beguiles. I truly love this novel." (Alice Sebold)

"Ingenious and touching, A Tale for the Time Being is also highly readable. And interesting: the contrast of cultures is especially well done." (Philip Pullman)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.5 (47 )
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4.7 (45 )
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  •  
    Rochelle Dunedin, New Zealand 10-19-13
    Rochelle Dunedin, New Zealand 10-19-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Being Now"

    “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.”

    This book is a beautiful concept under a masterful narrative. The 2 narrating characters (not the reader) lives touch in a meaningful way, although they will never meet.

    An American novelist, Ruth, finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the beach of the island she lives on in Canada. It contains the diary of Nao (a bullied teenager in Japan), some letters and a watch. A lot of the story is the diary, where Nao reveals the secrets she is sharing with no-one else.

    The other half of the book is Ruth's attempt to to find out more about Nao and her family. Nao appears to be in danger. While Ruth & her husband wonder whether the lunchbox might have washed across from Japan in the drift following the 2011 tsunami, it's also clear that the Nao's bullying & her father's attempted suicide is leading her to seriously contemplate her own suicide.

    Buddhism, western philosophy & environmentalism are some of the themes that flow throughout this beautiful creation, but most of all it is about being now. It is this that makes this book something you want to read in one sitting. And what makes you want it never to end.

    Booker short listed, this is an exceptional piece. Get it, you will love it. It has found it's place among my all time favourites & I am sure it will be the same for many other readers.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robyn Cape Town, South Africa 05-30-13
    Robyn Cape Town, South Africa 05-30-13 Member Since 2010
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    "One of the best books ever"

    This is the first review that I've felt compelled to write. If you listen to one book this year - make it this one!

    I am amazed that this book does not have hundreds of reviews of praise. I kept thinking that the reader seemed to have such a deep insight into the characters - it was only when I listened to part 3 did I realise that it was read by Ruth Ozeki herself. It definitely adds another layer to experience.

    I loved her Year of Meat - this book is even better. As before Ruth Ozeki combines fact with fiction making it more than simply a story. Listen to this book - or read this book. Or even better do both - you won't be disappointed.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zora Footscray, Australia 09-04-13
    Zora Footscray, Australia 09-04-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Give this a chance and you're in for a treat."

    When I first heard about this book, I wasn't convinced. A diary of a Japanese schoolgirl washes up on a beach and a middle-aged author interweaves it with her own life on a Canadian Island? It did not sound like my thing.

    I'm so glad I didn't listen to my first reaction and gave this book a try. Listening to this book is a real experience. I knew I was hooked when it was 3am and I was still lying in bed in the dark, unable to press pause. There is nothing maudlin or predictable about this story, and there are no dull characters who you feel like you just have to get past to get to the ones you like. There is terror, tragedy, history, family and quite a lot of humour in this book. No wonder it's been long listed for the Booker.

    And the narration fro the author is spectacular. After listening, i can't imagine how they could have got anyone else to narrate this unique and wonderful book.

    Give it a chance, you won't regret it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ásdís Siglufjörður, Iceland 08-25-14
    Ásdís Siglufjörður, Iceland 08-25-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Very unusual for my but enjoyable"
    If you could sum up A Tale for the Time Being in three words, what would they be?

    Three words? Truth, time, tears.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I cannot name one character and say he or she was a favorite. The old grandma I feel I did not get to know well and the mothers are a little unclear and fogy. But still all equally important,, and made the story.


    Which character – as performed by Ruth Ozeki – was your favorite?

    She, Ms. Ruth Ozeki read all character equally good, I hope she reads more book as well as her own and maybe she has?


    If you could rename A Tale for the Time Being, what would you call it?

    I don't know. Is this a story of two parallel worlds or times. Is it a story of her self. Is this a story of what??? Now I am writing and now I am not and then what??


    Any additional comments?

    Beautiful story, wonderfully read. Thank you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kath of Oz Melbourne 05-27-14
    Kath of Oz Melbourne 05-27-14 Member Since 2012

    Avid reader and journalist deploying my pen in the service of this planet's visionaries.

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    "Six stars"

    Beautiful, precious book. A real and brave story but so gemlike, shining with wisdom and humility. Amid the mingled stories of two women, a teenage girl writing about her life being bullied at school in her diary and and middle-aged ex-New Yorker suffering writer's block, are so many ideas and themes: age, fate, Japanese Zazen practice, suicide, war, quantum physics, and honesty ... All carried along. beautifully in the powerful and authentic voices of the young woman and her older reader.
    The author's reading voice is mesmerising.
    You'll love this story. Like all beautiful things, it is an endless surprise.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kate 05-16-14
    Kate 05-16-14
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    "Compelling story"
    What made the experience of listening to A Tale for the Time Being the most enjoyable?

    Beautifully read book which stays with you. The story is different and compelling.


    What does Ruth Ozeki bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Her accent.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-6 of 6 results
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  • Rosemary
    Wentworthville, Australia
    4/8/13
    Overall
    "Far more interesting than expected."

    When I read the description of this book, it sounded like a "chick" book of little consequence but it caught me from the first. Two lives apparently unrelated yet somehow they merge in a completely convincing way. Yes, it is about a young girl's diary being read by an older woman with issues of her own and yet its far more interesting than this appears.

    Ruth Ozeki skilfully and subtly entwines several lives together until you completely believe in them and care about what is happening to each. The girl's name, Nao is pronounced "Now" and there is delicate play on the meaning and sound of her name which eventually catches one's attention. Ruth captures Japan's ambience and culture of Now/Nao and strangely also of WWII, of Buddhist life, of quantum physics, of a remote corner of Canada, of internet reality, its all very complex and yet gently held together.

    Ruth narrates her own book and her natural Japanese pronunciation adds very much to the authenticity and veracity of her brilliantly crafted characters. As someone who has never been to Japan, I almost believed I would recognise the girl's father, see and smell the school toilets, hear the temple drum in the mountains, feel the humidity, smell the cheap cigarettes, taste the oysters, feel the strength of the storm, feel Pesto's feline body under my hand while he sat in the co-pilot's chair.

    This is a book that can be listened to several times without becoming boring or stale and I certainly will listen again.

    Ruth has devised an unusual, highly imaginative structure to her story which works amazingly well. I congratulate her and would recommend this book to anyone interested in an author who brings her characters to life so effectively that you think you could and should Google them!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Stephen
    Rowlands Gill,, United Kingdom
    11/26/13
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    "All the worlds alive"

    A novel that sends you back to check out whether Martin Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit would have been available to a non German speaking Kamikazi pilot in training in Tokyo in 1943 has certainly delivered on intellectual stimulation and this is just one of the many satisfactions in this new work from a new to me author. I found the narrative from all the perspectives - modern Canadian author, young Japanese diarist, letter writing uncle and corresponding father and Californian college professor - beautifully contained and conveyed.

    The writing was skillful and disciplined throughout but never appeared laboured. The considerations were fresh and new and the very contemporary setting, pitched against the Fukushima Daiichi events on 11th March 2011, brought an immediacy to my reading this in November 2013 when the events referred to in the narrative had so obviously been laid out earlier in the same year.

    A story that stole my attention from start to finish, a voice I was always ready to listen to and a place where I lived alongside the characters, Ruth Ozeki concerns herself with the process of writing, reading and experiencing the sharing of stories and lives - hugely enjoyable and well recommended.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    Frodsham, United Kingdom
    5/8/13
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    "Thoughtful and haunting"

    Contrary to a review I read, I found the story and characters difficult to engage with at first, I but I am so glad that I persevered. This is a complex and thoughtful story that does not exactly unfold, it felt more like life ripped apart with all the gore of the darkest sides of human nature exposed. It is a sickeningly real yet unreal tale, twisted around in time and perspective. We are reading a diary of a Japanese school girl through the eyes of a stranger who tries to anchor the story in her own world by researching the author. As the tale gets darker and nastier we get to step out of the horror of the moment as an observer in time to catch a breath before the next catastrophic reveal.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • purlieu
    8/12/13
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    Story
    "A wonderful book"
    If you could sum up A Tale for the Time Being in three words, what would they be?

    Contemporary, relevant, captivating


    Any additional comments?

    I loved that this book gave me an insight into contemporary Japan. I felt empathy with both the female characters. It kept me gripped even though I only listened to it in short bursts.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Bex
    Burton-on-Trent, United Kingdom
    7/8/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Compelling and fascinating."
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Tale for the Time Being to be better than the print version?

    Because the audiobook is read by the author you really get the authentic characterisation and even the fairly complicated and ethereal parts of the story are given gravity.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The telling of the story involved lots of historical and cultural references which added colour and weight.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Many of the anecdotes made me giggle but the parts involving the sea soldiers training had me walking along the street with tears streaming down my face. The telling is not in the least sentimental but rather gut wrenchingly honest and at times shocking. History's ugly truths which so often are swept under the rug.


    Any additional comments?

    This book will stay with me for a very long time. I have long had a fascination with Japanese culture and this book nourished that whilst also leaving me with more questions than before!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • SDY
    Australia
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "It was OK"

    This books starts off very well but then it sags. And it sags some more, until you start looking at the time and wondering how long you have left. It's not unpleasant and the author/narrator certainly does a superb job with the delivery, but you have to be a pretty patient reader to appreciate it. Still, all the details about the Japanese culture were interesting to discover and those alone could keep you motivated to carry on. There are also some nice musings on time and life, war and death.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Anne D. M. Lavery
    London, UK
    8/6/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An enigmatic tale for modern beings"
    If you could sum up A Tale for the Time Being in three words, what would they be?

    Refreshing, enigmatic, modern


    What did you like best about this story?

    I enjoyed the diary format, giving us an intimate portrayal of the life of a Japanese teenager. It didn't flinch from exposing the cruelty of children, and the eccentricities of modern Japan, juxtaposed with the wisdom and calmness of a mountain dwelling Buddhist nun. Japan is a place of extreme contrasts and this book brought that out beautifully. The book also incorporates a touch of Japanese literature's peculiar brand of magic realism. There is a ghost, a portentous crow and some strange goings on, but don't expect them to be explained or dwelled on in any way. That's just how life is sometimes.


    What about Ruth Ozeki’s performance did you like?

    I love it when an author reads their own book and Ozeki's delivery was brilliant. She knows her characters perfectly and of course can do all the Japanese accents to a tee.


    Any additional comments?

    The second protagonist is the person reading the diary, a Japanese American author living in Canada, who you can't help but suspect a Ozeki has somewhat modelled on herself - the character is even called Ruth. Ozeki Incidentally also happens to be as then Buddhist priest. This all round closeness to her subject matter makes the characters completely believable and authentic.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Janice
    Cape Town, South Africa
    12/12/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "This one made me cry"

    It was hard to get into but with perseverance the story gripped tighter and tighter and I didn't want it to end.

    The juxtaposition of the two stories - the writer who finds the diary and the displaced Japanese teenager - was a tricky device which was well handled by the author. I felt great sympathy and sadness for them both and this is what makes a book worthwhile.

    A very satisfying read, though I didn't much enjoy the rather singsong reading style. Sometimes the author isn't the best person to read the book.

    I would read another book by Ozeki but with caution, because, if it is anything like this one, I know I will become deeply immersed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Kindle Customer
    Kildonan
    12/2/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "From a time being to another"

    Take a seat open the book and attain a superposition and entanglement, in a moment in a possibility. Be, experience the possibilities, create new ones with every decision or doubt. Encounter others in this world, through the pages through time.

    Some books are so much more than a story, so much more than words or history, some books are just ideas and imagination; this one is all of that and more. It opens layers and layers of stories and ideas, it gives so much to the mind and the heart of its reader, that you have to explore the references and the other authors mentioned to digest, to taste all that is given in this work.
    I had never read this author before but I plan to get more acquainted with her work, her mind is too beautiful to ignore or live without.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Bianca Bücherwurm
    London
    12/1/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Just Beautiful"

    “..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.”

    What a wonderful book this was. I was really sad when it finally finished. I listened to the unabridged audiobook version which was narrated by Ruth Ozeki herself.
    Once I started listening, I didn't want to stop.

    Ruth a novelist living on a small Island in Canada finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox on the beach. Inside the box she finds some old letters, a watch and a diary, disguised as a copy of Marcel Proust's "A la recherche du temps perdu" which is the first book in his "In Search of Lost Time" series.

    Very quickly it becomes apparent that the diary belonged to a 16 year old girl called Nao, who tells her reader about her life, which hasn't been easy since she moved to Tokyo with her parents a few years earlier. Nao has been severly bullied at school and her parents are unable to help her as they drown in there own problems. Ruth becomes obsessed with Nao's story and tries to find the girl to safe her. The only person who supports Nao is her great-grandmother Jikko, a Buddhist nun of the incredible age of 104 years. She was my fave character in this story and I just thought she was incredible amazing. Her voice is full of love, tenderness, wisdom and an almost timeless perspective.

    “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 then she snapped her crooked fingers again.

    And just like that, you die.”

    The whole story is written in a kind of epistolary style and changes back between time. There are some elements of magical realism, which gave the story an even greater charme.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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