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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

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  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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  • Karen
  • Philadelphia, PA, United States
  • 01-30-14

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.

24 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • JOHN
  • Plantation, FL, United States
  • 09-11-13

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.

26 of 30 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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Katy
  • Bend, OR
  • 01-09-15

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.

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.

24 of 33 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

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Beautifully written, beautifully read

What made the experience of listening to A Tale for the Time Being the most enjoyable?

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.

What other book might you compare A Tale for the Time Being to and why?

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.

11 of 16 people found this review helpful

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I am a time being. And so are you.

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

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 did you like best about this story?

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.

Which scene was your favorite?

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.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

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I am a new Ruth Ozeki fan.

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.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 11-21-13

Sad and disturbing yet thoroughly engrossing

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.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful