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.
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.
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.
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.
"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!
"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.
"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.
"A wonderful book"
Contemporary, relevant, captivating
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.
"Compelling and fascinating."
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.
The telling of the story involved lots of historical and cultural references which added colour and weight.
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.
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!
"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.
"An enigmatic tale for modern beings"
Refreshing, enigmatic, modern
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.
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.
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.
"Bit quirky, great fun"
It's narrated by the author
This is an unusual book - a very creative and interesting idea. It is rather quirky, so not for everyone, and it does have a few weird bits in, but overall I really liked it.
"Interesting portrayal of very different culture"
Fascinating insight into Japanese society and an engaging if sometimes harowing tale. The depictions of human relationships were thought provoking and insightful. The narration was very well done by the authoress.
"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"
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