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
Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy
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.
I heart audiobooks! Best way to "read"!
This book is a story-inside-a-story. One is of "Ruth" -- the actual author -- who finds a Japanese teen girl's diary washed up on the shore of her remote Canadian island. Ruth, half Japanese herself, is struggling with writer's block and fixates on the diary (and the other items in the plastic bag with it, including a kamikazi pilot's watch.) The other story is of Noa, the Japanese teenager, who is contemplating suicide but first wants to tell the story of her Greatgrandmother, Zen Buddhist nun Jiko. Instead, Noa's diary is about herself, how she was born in America but now lives in social isolation in Japan, her equally suicidal father, and the life-journey her "Old Jiko" inspires. Ruth believes the diary is floatsam from the Japanese Tusnami and sets out to find out if Noa is real/alive.
Noa's story is overall engrossing and emotional. At times even hard to listen to. But Ruth's story is a snooze. There are no "stakes" for Ruth, I never cared about her and I find the conceit to write a fake narrative about your real self to be pretty insufferable. Especially since she is totally unnecessary to tell Noa's story. Overall, Ruth's sections of the book don't even read real. She and her husband Oliver talk to each other like strangers. I have never heard two married people talk so formally and stiffly. I'm still shocked this was nominated for a Mann Booker prize based on how wooden Ruth's sections are.
But here's the worse part: Noa's story is eventually hinged on some vague notion of "quantum physics" (???) and Zen ideals about time. Which might have been okay IF there wasn't a sudden, unneeded and off-putting mystical/supernatural element introduced into the plot about 3/4 of the way through. I almost stopped listening when (SPOILER ALERT) Ruth has this incredibly self-involved dream... than ends up saving Noa's life, in the diary! Oh, come on. I slogged through all of this so the author could go on a ego trip??
The ending is vague, which I'm sure some people find "artsy" but I found a cop out.
All that said, my biggest issue with this book is the author reads it herself!!! Ugh, I hate when authors do that except when they're professional actors, like Steve Martin or how Mindy Kalling or Tina Fey read their own books. Hey, author: I'm sure you had fun in drama club back in high school, but you're not a great actor. You really suck at doing voices, sometimes even your own! Sure, since Ruth Ozeki is half-Japanese, she pronounces all the Japanese words in the book perfectly. But any decent actor who knows Japanese could have done that! Ruth Ozeki's has no ability to bring the characters alive through her voice. Mostly, it was flat, and when it wasn't, she sounded stiff or over-done, like someone doing bad impressions of mutual friends.
Please leave the book narration up to the professionals.
I will keep this short and sweet as I'm typing on my phone but I LOVED this book. It had a complex story line that was layered, as you read you peeled off layer by layer until you felt extremely close to the characters. Her story was captivating, I loved the voice, I laughed, I cried. It was just an awesome listening experience. The summary of the book doesn't do it justice.
I really loved this book. talk about feeling connected. I laughe, I cried...I hoped. I was so invested in the characters who were beautifully described.
this is now one of my favorite books. :)
I wish the author had enriched her description of the characters and their situation and not thrown in so many unlikely plot elements. The character of Ruth, whom I presume to be somewhat autobiographical, was unlikeable- I did not care if she never wrote again and I wanted her husband to divorce her. The titular nun did not seem very profound to me. Very serious topics were piled on and addressed only glancingly; e.g., rape, prostitution, suicide, depression, Alzheimers.
Not sure what the genre is.
Opening chapters and set-up were quite good. I was looking forward to elaboration of the "Time Being". The double entendre left for a lot of rich possibilities, which were not fully developed, in my opinion.
Way too much going on. What was the point of the injured cat? The rape scene was unbearable.
I started to lose interest in the end and may have tuned out when the explanation was offered, but I never learned the answer to the fundamental question of how the Hello Kitty box ended up in the water.
The Author narrated this book with authentic nuances of language, emotion, shaken confidence and love.
I flinched with each identification I had to each flawed and beautiful character and yearned for the healing company of the Great Grandmother.
Scene to me is more the setting of the events. The author puts you in a place that gives physicality to landscapes in your mind. The descriptions of place, detailed by the author through all senses, gave me a visceral feeling. The duality of beauty/danger in the Pacific Northwest, and of Nao in Tokyo.
This book touched me in many ways. I was angry, frustrated, jealous and curious. I laughed and cried. I want the print version so that I can experience the book in a different way. I want to share it with people I love. I want others to experience it.
The Author taught me something, or reminded me of something that was already in my heart. Either way, listening to this book has become the first step of that journey of learning and remembering. Thank you, Ruth Ozeki, for the First Step.
Probably the best book I have read. I would recommend this to simply anyone. It contains history, humor, and a sad teenage story line. A bit of everything.
I really, really hated this book--almost as much as I hated 'The Elegance of the Hedgehog,' another pretentious novel impressed with its own philosophy. The author tries way too hard to be profound--and, worse still, her supposed profundity is put into the voice of an irritatingly precocious, self-absorbed teenager. As in the aforementioned despised book, the young person learns the wisdom of life from a wise elder (at least in this case not a cranky one). Who are we? What is time? Do we have an essence beyond our bodies? Are we connected to all other persons and things? Who cares?
yes would recommend it ,thoughtful ,funny .
the characters are beautifully drawn, unique interested plots and twists and turns
the teen girl and grandmother
nice mix of philosophy, intrigue, and plot
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