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
"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)
“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.
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.
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.
I have read this book in print and thought I would give the audio version a listen rather than re-read it. The book is so richly layered and is not just your run-of-the-mill work of fiction. The audio version was so much better than I could have anticipated, and provides even more layers to the novel. Ozeki does well in characterizing the voices of each person in the text, and her intonation and emphasis provided some interesting insights to the work I hadn't picked up by reading in print. You cannot grasp this book in one reading, and the research Ozeki put into this book is very dense. It is subtle enough for those who wish to skip over it can do, but for those readers who wish to dig deeper provide a welcome treasure trove of history, environmental, culture and textual depth. I will listen to it again in the future.
Three words? Truth, time, tears.
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.
She, Ms. Ruth Ozeki read all character equally good, I hope she reads more book as well as her own and maybe she has?
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??
Beautiful story, wonderfully read. Thank you.
Avid reader and journalist deploying my pen in the service of this planet's visionaries.
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.
Beautifully read book which stays with you. The story is different and compelling.
“..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.
"A Great Read"
This book kept my interest from the very first page. The storyline is intrigueing with two different timelines and cultures and a little of the supernatural thrown in. I have listened to this book twice now and have enjoyed it just as much the second time and will listen again in the future. It is what I class as 'a keeper' meaning the writing is so good I can come back to it again and again.
My favourite character is Nao and her journey of self discovery from despondency to hope for the future with the help of her ancient great grandmother, a.Zen Bhuddist nun.
Ruth Ozeki is a very good reader, not all authors are, and brings a feeling of authenticity to the book.
I listened to this book in installments the first time as it was my 'bedtime reading' but this time I listened over two days whilst doing some decorating.
I wish I was better at writing a review as I would really like to get over how much I enjoyed this book. It is so original and totally unpredictable which is what I find attractive in a story. Other books on my 'keeper' list are - Behind The Scenes At The Museum, The Secret Life Of Bees, Life of Pi, Being Dead, The Lovely Bones, The Colour Purple and all the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett
"a bit too much?"
RO is very talented but the scope of this book is vast and I don't think that she quite pulls it off. Having said that I enjoyed the listen: in parts it is desperately sad and very inventive.
She also narrates pretty well.
"A bit of a struggle"
The story follows Ruth's familiar formula contrasting and comparing Japan and USA. There are some interesting story lines but it does drag and she does tend to struggle to write characters you can have real sympathy with.
The central idea of a character who is an author remarkably like Ruth struggling with writers block and finding a story which mystically writes itself, is a bit literature will eat itself. The strong Buddist overtones are interesting and you can't fault her inventiveness. Just the pacing of the story that sometimes drags.
One big positive is Ruth's reading I think she does a great job of reading the book and the author doing so always give an interesting perspective. She talks about the audio book process in a nice little foot note.
If you have not done so already check out her fantastic "My year of Meats"
"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!
"Amazing! It's now one of my favourite books"
It's a book I go back to time and again. Although I'm a Polish immigrant living in England, there are so many parts of the story that I can relate to.
"The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy. The storyline, events and structure are absolutely different, but it resonates with reader in a similar way. Characters are easy to relate to and deeply human.
I love the end of Nao's journal. It's so satisfying and calming after a long build up.
It brought me close to tears and made me smile often. I love innocent humour of Nao's writing.
Read it and listen to it! I have first bought it as an audiobook, and than bought a paper copy as well. It's one of the books that are worth it.
Wow! Just finished this wonderful book. Recommended to me after enjoying titles by Haruki Murikami. I know feel inspired to read up on quantum mechanics; French literature; Japanese history & sociology, and modern maritime anomalies. Thank you Ruth for a most enjoyable journey; thank you for the time being.
This is beautiful with an amazing and interesting take on time. Never have I come across a writer that could describe and embody time in such a way m.
"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.
"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.
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