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
I loved this book- Not all authors are good readers, but Ruth Ozeki does a marvelous job with this one. Interesting cultural and philosophical and generational contrasts. The story was very engaging in that I found myself glued to it wanting to know what would happen. I cared about the characters and how they fared. I appreciate the moments of magical realism, the mysteries that are left mysteries, the author's allowing the girl narrator to be both wise and shallow, as young people often are. The characters are more real for their flaws. The language is beautiful, the story well-constructed.
One word of caution - there is a lot of discussion of, and exploration of suicide in this book. At times it is uncomfortable - and I imagine that for someone with close experience or unprocessed hurt around this issue, it may be intolerably so. But it is integral to the book and the story, and involves Japanese history and perspectives on this issue. The tension of Japanese and American ways of understanding suicide is part of the story. That the author elicits this in (American) readers is also part of it. So choose accordingly.
For me it was well worth the read.
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.
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.
The first half was definitely stellar. Great narrator helped bring to life the ties between two disparate cultures with a gripping plot. I feel greatly misled by this book, however. It contains graphic depictions of attempted child rape and numerous descriptions of torture of a child. There are just somethings that I don't want to have to listen to in the car on the way to work, and those rank highest. I turned it off after I couldn't trust that the descriptions would end. Too bad.
Her character voices weren't over the top, her cadence and inflection were spot on.
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.
The premise of the Japanese girl's diary floating to shore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox is great. The story in the diary and especially the story of Ruth reading the diary, lacks direction or even the least interest.
Stigmatized and uninformed comments such as, "These ronin were scary dudes, kind of like what the homeless guys living under tarps in ... park might turn into if you gave them really sharp swords" make this book offensive. I've only listened to 1:18 of this book but there are multiple cynical remarks about suicide, and a reference to "shooters high on Zoloft."
My theory is that writers use material related to mental illness when they are short on ideas. They also assume they can write about homeless people or suicidal people based on their on common sense. Research is just for local color such as the maid bars in Tokyo.
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.
This book is an essestential philosophical romp. It's playful and humorous, and sometimes sad.....but never boring.
Constraints of time, space, culture and the generation gap are transcended.
The elderly Buddhist nun. At first, I was disappointed by Ruth's reading of her own work...but either she got better as the story went on or the story was so good, I simply didn't care.
Someone should take Ruth Ozeki out to dinner....maybe an awards dinner! I'm definitely looking for other books by her.
I bought this in hard copy first, Then, bought the audible because I had to do chores and drive and things requiring eyes and hands, but I couldn't bear to put the book down. The hard copy has really interesting footnotes, which I missed. I can't wait for my friends to read this book so we can talk about it.
Unexpected stories juxtaposed.
This is quite a unique read.
The two narrators, Nao and Ruth, are both exceptionally performed by Ozeki. In fact, the reading of this book by the author is so well done that some of the meaning would be lost if one simply read the book alone.
The death of Jiko was quite moving and how it brings Nao closer to her father.
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