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Publisher's Summary

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Engaging story beautifully read

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.

44 of 45 people found this review helpful

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Where Darkness Meets Light

Audiobook narration by the author was especially beneficial. There are so many languages and characters in this book, that I'm not sure I would have been able to create the same image in my own head as I read the paper copy. I had the paper copy beside me the whole time, to jot down notes and bookmark notable quotes and sections. The paper copy has a lot of footnotes and annotations, and being able to see Japanese characters in print added to the enjoyment of the overall story.

I am so glad I felt a time crunch to read this book, otherwise I may have missed out on the audio version in Ruth's own voice & story telling capabilities.

The story got dark for a while and the graphic depiction of many disturbing scenes stuck with me, but when light returned near the end, the light was bright enough to carry me through.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Extraordinary Effort

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.

33 of 37 people found this review helpful

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So unusual

I loved this book. I am not sure I can articulate everything about why,but I will try -- it is a wonderful story and pulls in many,many layers of human angst and resolution at just the right time while keeping the story line sane and magical at the same time. Ruth Ozeki reads it beautifully (not always the case with authors) and the characters are well drawn with a clear and significant plunge into new worlds. It was this - the fact that the book took me to another world. that captivated me

The fall season is a good time to be transported to another place while a transition is happening before our eyes. Don't miss this one.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Remarkable

I went into this book with no preconceptions of it's contents. What I found was a series of beautiful echos - within the lives of the characters, as well as my own mind. The story contains frank discussions of self, was, suicide, and cultural belonging framed by a mysterious diary detailing the troubled life of a 15 year old Japanese girl, and the Canadian woman who reads it. It is a mystery, a journey, a spiritual endeavor, and a philosophical sampler. I very much enjoyed this book, and one even before the resolution came that I needed to buy this book in print as well, to ensure I read it again at a later point in my life. The audiobook format is wonderful though, as the author gives literal voice to the characters, providing accents and emphasis on a way that wouldn't come across as well simply printed.
This was a delight, please give it a try.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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contains graphic depictions of child rape/torture

What disappointed you about A Tale for the Time Being?

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.

Would you recommend A Tale for the Time Being to your friends? Why or why not?

Certainly not.

What about Ruth Ozeki’s performance did you like?

Her character voices weren't over the top, her cadence and inflection were spot on.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Definitely anger.

33 of 45 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Layer upon layer upon layer

I've looked at this book many times, always deciding that it was probably too abstract for me. There are abstract parts, but most of the book is a multi-layered story featuring two characters separated by space and time. There's a touch of magical realism and characters that you can really get attached to. I loved the book. I'm going to buy a print copy and read it again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wow what a story!

This story was so intense, it consumed me for weeks! I keep thinking about all the characters and the interwoven lives and paths. Simply a brilliant plot and beautifully written and read. A true time being. Thank you

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Very inventive

Would you listen to A Tale for the Time Being again? Why?

The two stories that comprise this books are wonderfully intertwined. Save for a few times where it did not make sense to me, the story is well constructed and has a nice flow to it. Unusual in places, but easy to connect to the feelings of the main characters. It alternately describes life in Canada, Silicon Valley and Japan, it touches themes of suicide, purpose and spiritualism. And it comes to a satisfying conclusion.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Favorite book this year

What did you love best about A Tale for the Time Being?

This book is an essestential philosophical romp. It's playful and humorous, and sometimes sad.....but never boring.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A Tale for the Time Being?

Constraints of time, space, culture and the generation gap are transcended.

Which character – as performed by Ruth Ozeki – was your favorite?

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.

If you could take any character from A Tale for the Time Being out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Someone should take Ruth Ozeki out to dinner....maybe an awards dinner! I'm definitely looking for other books by her.

Any additional comments?

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful