A brilliant, unforgettable, and long-awaited novel from best-selling author Ruth Ozeki
"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."
In Tokyo, 16-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 first 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 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 humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and listener, 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.
©2013 Ruth Ozeki (P)2013 Penguin Audio
Audible Member Since 2003
Ordinarily I do not like to hear an author read his/her own books. Almost always they come across as emotionless and wooden, and one cannot help but wonder why in the world wouldn't a professional WRITER delegate the narration to a professional READER? This is not the case with this book. Ruth Ozeki's reading skills rival that of any I have ever heard. She definitely improves on her written words with her spoken words. Actually I cannot imagine anyone doing a better job than she.
It would seem that the Ruth in this book is the alter-ego of the author, who is drawn to some flotsam on the beach where she finds, among other artifacts, a diary protected within some plastic freezer bags. It soon becomes apparent the diary came from Japan, and although unlikely, possibly from the devastating tsunami of 2011. The diary was written by a Japanese teenager, Nao (not a coincidence that the pronunciation is "Now") who was contemplating suicide. Nao speaks to her reader across an ocean of water and time, and Ruth is drawn deeper into Nao's life. A captivating connection is made between the two through the girl's story, in spite of the chasm of time and space.
This is truly an elegant, lovely, poignant and thought-provoking novel and Ruth Ozeki has proven she is a brilliant author AND narrator. Highly recommended.
This is a complex but always grip[ping narrative, or set of interlocking narratives. Ozeki is not only a deeply engaging, thoughtful, and often droll novelist but also a brilliant reader of her own work.
It has the mature technical deftness of Ozeki's second novel, All Over Creation, and the interesting comparative cultural (Japanese-American) perspective of her first, My Year of Meats. In emotional depth and historical breadth it is her best work yet.
This is a difficult book for me to review. First, let me say that it was always engrossing but not in a demanding sort of way. That is, I could listen at a leisurely pace and did not feel I had to race to find out the outcome. It was certainly not a feel-good type of book by any stretch of the imagination.
The listening experience evoked many adjectives: sad, brutal, disturbing, puzzling, informative, and hopeful. I came to like the characters the longer I listened, and I became more and more interested in the Japanese cultural practices. However, I was very disturbed at the bullying which was a huge part of the story, both by Nao's schoolmates and the uncle's superior officers. The war atrocities described sickened me--the only saving grace was that the book was being read to me, and I could not linger very long on what was being described. The theme of suicide played a big role in this story, frighteningly so. Then, I became confused at the element of fantasy that was brought into the story--and the very strange way the author attempted to justify its relevance (Schrodinger's Cat!). I also was a bit put off by the easy way the ending was so easily turned around to make it hopeful and pleasant.
So, you can see I did not love many facets of the story. Yet, I am giving it a good rating and I hope I do not deter anyone from choosing to read it. This is a very unique, different sort of story that stretches the reader's imagination in very different ways, perhaps due to such different cultural issues.
I want to add that the author did a spectacular narration, which certainly added to the listening experience and to my high rating.
I read and listen to books. I drink tea. I sleep like a cat and wished I lived in Hawaii.
As I think about what to write about this book, I am a bit confused. It covers many different facets of life. It talks about bullying, Buddhist nuns, the Japanese culture, the American culture, quantum physics, time, WWII kamikaze pilots, etc. When I read this list, I have to say that it doesn't sound too appealing, it sounds like Ruth Ozeki is trying to put too many elements into her book. BUT that is not what I found at all. This book was beautiful, sad and also uplifting. The book switches between the 2 main narrators, Nao and Ruth. Nao is an Japanese teenager living in Japan after spending many years living in California. Ruth is Ruth, the author of this book, who lives in Canada. Ruth definitely reveals some of her true self in this book, but to what extent I am not sure. Ruth finds herself connected to Nao's story/life after finding a lunchbox washed up on the shore. I enjoyed Nao's narration more, but Ozeki was able to braid both narrations together in a smooth way. I found myself getting emotionally invested in Nao and her life, especially when she goes to visit her great-grandmother Jiko, a buddhist nun, at her temple. At that point, I was also emotionally invested in Jiko too. Jiko was my favorite character in this book and that isn't because I have a soft spot for grandmothers. She was funny, insightful and mystical, the way all buddhist nuns should be when they are 104 years old. One of the best parts about this book was the narration. Ozeki should always narrate her own books and, frankly, some other author's books as well. She was awesome. My only compliant about the book was that it contained too much science talk about time and space and particles. The book dragged a bit in those parts, but not enough for me to lose my interest in finding out how Nao's life and Ruth's life panned out in the end.
This has to be the most enjoyable book that I have read in a very long time! Ruth Ozeki has a wonderful way of endearing her characters to you in a way that makes you really care what happens next.......... I read this one in one weekend! It was hard to not listen and do anything else. The flow of the writing is truly brilliant and the storyline is fast paced draws the reader deep into the plot. What could be better than finding a washed up lunchbox on the shore and then unravelling the mystery with all its complexities!
What a shame Audible has none of her other books available at the moment!!
The author's performance was superb. She did a nice job with the voices without going over the top. In particular her voicing of Nao vs. Ruth allowed the listener to distinguish the two without being overly dramatic.
The concept of finding a diary washed up on shore and working through the life of the diarist was really fun.
Voicing of the characters
Laughed in many places. Kinda awkward sitting on a plane with headphones on and laughing out loud.
I haven't read Ruth Ozeki's first book, "My Year of Meats," but I certainly will now. Her writing is beautiful and completely engaging.
Although the first few moments of the book had me wondering about what I had gotten myself into as Nao introduced herself in her diary, but I kept going and I am really glad that I did. Nao and Ruth (the other main character--named for the book's author?) are both sympathetic and interesting characters. They are both struggling through hard situations in their lives and trying to figure out whether to make it through or to just give up. When fate connects them through the discovery of Nao's diary sealed inside a Hello Kitty lunch box inside a barnacled plastic bag that Ruth "happens" to find on the coast of Canada, their lives and stories become intertwined in interesting and surreal ways. The connection between Ruth as Nao's reader and Nao as Ruth's storyteller bridges both geographical distance as well as time.
I was sorry to reach the end of the story but very glad to have particpated in it--as a reader you definitely feel that you are part of what is happening as Ruth is part of what she reads from Nao's diary. In the end, the story, like the characters, seems to open up more possibilities than to close them and, as the reader, I knew this was a good thing--for everyone.
Married. Mother. Student. Full-time job. 33 years old. Doctor Who fanatic. Not necessarily in that order.
I'm not in the habit of listening to (or reading) books more than once. Something about doing that bugs me. But I can say that this book will stay with me for a long time and I will revisit certain scenes again and again in my mind.
What impressed me so much was how everything in the book had a purpose. Seemingly trivial details are symbolic of either a bigger idea or a parallel item in the other world. The first example of this is the double-meaning of the title. I downloaded it thinking it would be just a simple story. I was so very wrong and that was evident from one of Nao's first lines, "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." The scope of this book awes me.
I particularly enjoyed Nao's time with her great grandmother at the temple. I found her experiences at school disturbing and the growth and peace she acquired at the temple was deeply satisfying to me as a reader.
The reading of Nao's great-Uncle's diary made me stop and just sit and listen with awed horror at the recounting of the training and mission of the kamikazes. The detail and emotion put into this section of the book made it absolutely riveting. I stopped doing what I was doing and sat and stared at the corner of the room, my attention completely focused on the story.
What impressed me the most about this book was the variety of emotions this book made me feel. An author that can make characters feel this real and make readers sympathize with them so completely has my utmost respect. It's been a long time since I have felt so satisfied by a book.
The more I think about this book, the more I love it. I also love that Ruth Ozeki narrated the book, and after the book ends, she tells the listener that when she writes, she reads it aloud to hear the words. That recording the book allowed her to be sure the text is "read" with the inflection she intended, which is impossible in print. She also suggests checking out the print version, since it contains footnotes and, I think, an appendix, which are impossible to convey in audio format.
I'm not one to write detailed reviews of books. But I will tell you I loved Nao (when I finished the book, I thought about the book in her voice) and her great-grandmother, Jiko, and her great-uncle, Harukami #1. I also don't usually comment on beautiful writing and such, but I felt it more than I normally do, and it swept me away. Like on a wave. Or in a current. Or a gyre. Like the gyre, current, waves that brought Nao to Ruth. And to me, and maybe you.
The story is told so simply but has incredible depth. I don't know how she does it but death and life are brought together and valued equally. There is a profound respect for our desire to live and our desire sometimes to die before our time is really up. Japanese culture and American culture cross over in our modern world - with communications across the sea and the internet.
All the characters are brilliant.
Ruth is the author and Ruth is one of the main characters, also an author. Coincidence? Well, the author tells her story beautifully. The cross cultural references are endearing powerful and real.
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