A Tale for the Time Being

( 31 )

Overview

A brilliant, unforgettable novel from bestselling author Ruth Ozeki?shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award

?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, sixteen-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 ...

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Overview

A brilliant, unforgettable novel from bestselling author Ruth Ozeki—shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award

“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, sixteen-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 reader, 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.

Winner of the 2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Lesley Downer
…delightful yet sometimes harrowing…Many of the elements of Nao's story—schoolgirl bullying, unemployed suicidal "salarymen," kamikaze pilots—are among a Western reader's most familiar images of Japan, but in Nao's telling, refracted through Ruth's musings, they become fresh and immediate, occasionally searingly painful. Ozeki takes on big themes in A Tale for the Time Being—not just the death of individuals but also the death of the planet. In doing so, she ranges widely, drawing in everything from quantum mechanics and the theory of infinite possibilities in an infinite number of universes to the teachings of the 13th-century Zen master Dogen Zenji.
The Washington Post - Wendy Smith
As contemporary as a Japanese teenager's slang but as ageless as a Zen koan, Ruth Ozeki's new novel combines great storytelling with a probing investigation into the purpose of existence. From the first page of A Tale for the Time Being, Ozeki plunges us into a tantalizing narration that brandishes mysteries to be solved and ideas to be explored…Ozeki's profound affection for her characters, which warmed her earlier novels…makes A Tale for the Time Being as emotionally engaging as it is intellectually provocative.
Publishers Weekly
Ozeki’s absorbing third novel (after All Over Creation) is an extended meditation on writing, time, and people in time: “time beings.” Nao Yasutani is a Japanese schoolgirl who plans to “drop out of time”—to kill herself as a way of escaping her dreary life. First, though, she intends to write in her diary the life story of her great-grandmother Jiko, a Zen Buddhist nun. But Nao actually ends up writing her own life story, and the diary eventually washes up on the shore of Canada’s Vancouver Island, where a novelist called Ruth lives. Ruth finds the diary in a freezer bag with some old letters in French and a vintage watch. Ruth’s investigation into how the bag traveled from Japan to her island, and why it contains what it does, alternates with Nao’s chapters. The characters’ lives are finely drawn, from Ruth’s rustic lifestyle to the Yasutani family’s straitened existence after moving from Sunnyvale, Calif., to Tokyo. Nao’s winsome voice contrasts with Ruth’s intellectual ponderings to make up a lyrical disquisition on writing’s power to transcend time and place. This tale from Ozeki, a Zen Buddhist priest, is sure to please anyone who values a good story broadened with intellectual vigor. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Literary Agency. (Mar. 12)
Kirkus Reviews
Ozeki's magnificent third novel (All Over Creation, 2003, etc.) brings together a Japanese girl's diary and a transplanted American novelist to meditate on everything from bullying to the nature of conscience and the meaning of life. On the beach of an island off British Columbia's coast, Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox containing a stack of letters and a red book. The book contains 16-year-old Nao's diary, bound within the covers of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time--and that's no accident, since both funny, grieving Nao and blocked, homesick Ruth are obsessed with time: how it passes, how we live in it. Nao wants to "drop out of time"; so does her father, a computer programmer who spent 10 years in California's Silicon Valley before the dot-com bust apparently sent the family back to Tokyo and subjected Nao to vicious bullying at school. Ruth moved from New York City to Canada since it was an easier place to care for her sick husband and dying mother but now feels the move was "a withdrawal" and is finding it hard to write. She plunges into Nao's diary, which also includes the stories of her 104-year-old great-grandmother, Jiko, an anarchist and feminist turned Buddhist nun, and Jiko's son Haruki, a philosophy student forced to become a kamikaze pilot during World War II. The letters in the lunchbox are Haruki's, and his secret army diary begins the book's extended climax, which transcends bitter anguish to achieve heartbreaking poignancy as both Nao and Ruth discover what it truly means to be "a time being." Ozeki faultlessly captures the slangy cadences of a contemporary teen's voice even as she uses it to convey Nao's pain and to unobtrusively offer a quiet introduction to the practice and wisdom of Zen through Jiko's talks with her great-granddaughter. The novel's seamless web of language, metaphor and meaning can't be disentangled from its powerful emotional impact: These are characters we care for deeply, imparting vital life lessons through the magic of storytelling. A masterpiece, pure and simple.
Library Journal
Ozeki's beautifully crafted work, which arrives a decade after her last novel, All Over Creation, strives to unravel the mystery of a 16-year-old Japanese American girl's diary found washed ashore in Whaletown, British Columbia. Born in Sunnyvale, CA, Nao logs her diary entries from Japan since her father returned the family there following the burst of the dot-com bubble. Ozeki creates a host of colorful tales surrounding Nao and her 104-year-old great-grandmother, Jiko, a Buddhist nun, and great uncle Haruki, who was a kamikaze pilot in World War II. Meanwhile, in Canada, author Ruth and her husband, Oliver, are reading Nao's entries in the year 2012, wondering whether the diary is debris from the devastating tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, and whether Nao is still alive. VERDICT Ozeki adeptly intertwines past and present while weaving bits of history into her stories. Topics such as bullying, politics, depression, suicidal tendencies, and Buddhism are explored throughout, and as in previous novels, Ozeki validates her gift for writing prose that raises thought-provoking issues for readers to ponder long after finishing the book. [See Prepub Alert, 9/24/12.]—Shirley Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670026630
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 3/12/2013
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 177,140
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. She is the award-winning author of three novels, My Year of Meats, All Over Creation, and A Tale for the Time Being, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her critically acclaimed independent films, including Halving the Bones, have been screened at Sundance and aired on PBS. She is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City.

Visit www.ruthozeki.com and follow @ozekiland on Twitter.
 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 31 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(16)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

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2 Star

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1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Wow, Ruth Ozeki, you hooked me right away with Nao¿s story.  A T

    Wow, Ruth Ozeki, you hooked me right away with Nao’s story.  A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki was very different from what I expected (although I have no idea what I DID expect) but it was amazing.

    I requested this book from NetGalley after seeing the cover everywhere and reading a few positive reviews, like Bookmagnet’s post.  A Tale for the Time Being comes out today, and it is one that you really must read.

    Nao is a Japanese teenager who is just living a crappy life.  She went with her parents to California, where she lived from being a young child to age 15.  The dot com bubble burst, forcing her dad not only out of the job but all of their invested money went down the drain.  Now her dad’s favorite hobby is trying to kill himself.

    Nao is also being bullied immensely at school, being physically tortured, cut, poked, etc.  So if she’s worthless, and her dad is going to commit suicide, she might as well try to do the same. . . once she gets her thoughts out on paper.

    She finds comfort in her grandmother, Jiko, and in her task of writing out what is intended to be Jiko’s story, but really turns into Nao’s story.

    How does the reader meet Nao?  Well, fast forward a few years to a remote island in Canada, where Ruth and her husband randomly find some zip lock bags washed up on shore, with Nao’s diary, a second diary written by a man in French, and some letters inside.

    Ruth is captivated by Nao’s story, and so was I!  I loved this book and raced through it.  But I have to admit I was much more captivated by Nao’s storyline than Ruth’s.

    What book has captivated you lately?

    Thanks for reading,

    Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    16 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2013

    Another fine piece of writing by Ruth Ozeki. A Tale For the Time

    Another fine piece of writing by Ruth Ozeki. A Tale For the Time Being is a tale for all beings. This book focuses on two central characters and the diary that connects them together through time and place.

    In her signature style Ms. Ozeki has done a superb job of weaving together a profound tale that explores the unique relationship between writer and reader. Nao the diary’s writer is a victim of intense and extreme bullying. She has made the decision to end her life but has committed herself to honour her great grandmother, a 104 year old Buddhist nun by chronicling her life story before doing so. Ruth the reader is a novelist struggling to regain her writing voice. She finds the diary one day washed up on the shorline of the remote British Columbia Island she currently resides on. As she reads further into the diary Ruth finds herself being pulled and drawn into Nao’s world. Through the reading of Nao’s words Ruth begins to find words she thought she had lost forever. Ruth not only finds herself connecting to Nao through the diary she finds herself connecting with her husband as well. As she reads to him aloud from the diary she draws him into this other world with her.

    As I read this book I felt myself being drawn deeper and deeper into the story. The more I read the harder it was for me to put the book down. I felt deeply connected to the story and the characters. This book masterfully binds the reader and writer together though the common threads of humanity. The book draws its strength from ancient Buddhist wisdom and powerfully reminds us of the interconnectness of all beings.

    I received an advance copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program and feel privileged to have been one of the first to read it. This is a book worth reading and I highly recommend it. I am confident it will be added to many must read lists for 2013. Make sure you add it to yours.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    It's not often a book gets me excited about reading it as soon a

    It's not often a book gets me excited about reading it as soon as I open it, but that's what happened with A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Right away, in the first few pages, readers are treated to a unique, young voice. Naoko is contemplative, wiser than she realizes, and speaks without tempering her words. She displays a very stark self-awareness which often caused me to catch my breath.

    This novel has so many intricate layers, I know I can't do it justice in this review. A colleague of mine once told me he always loves listening to, performing, and conducting Beethoven's 5th Symphony, even though he's done so countless times. For him, it never gets old or stale. He always hears something new, notices something that gives it even more depth and meaning. I can imagine reading A Tale for the Time Being again and again and having this same reaction.

    In a way, I think Naoko exemplifies the complexity and full freedom of religion in modern Japanese culture. She isn't overtly religious, but she is very open-minded, which allows her to pull the truths and strength she desperately needs. Naoko's time with her great-grandmother Jiko is profoundly beautiful, and the descriptions of Buddhist traditions and ceremonies are absolutely breathtaking.

    Ruth says she "wanted to read at the same rate [Naoko] had lived" and at times found it difficult to resist the temptation to quickly devour the entire story. I definitely shared that feeling! I found myself getting impatient during the scenes with Ruth and Oliver. I just wanted Ruth to get back to reading Naoko's diary. I had to know what happened next!

    A Tale for the Time Being will appeal to those who enjoy contemporary fiction, those who enjoy a bit of the fantastic with some magical realism, those who like their fiction to be intertwined with science, philosophy, history, and politics. Marcel Proust is quoted in the book: "Every reader, while he is reading, is the reader of his own self." Ozeki explores some thought-provoking angles concerning the importance of the reader to a novel. This novel challenged and stretched my thinking, and I always appreciate that.

    This was my first time reading any of Ozeki's books, and I am left with the compulsion to go buy everything she's written. I am certain this novel is going to end up listed as one of the best releases of the year.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2013

    One of the best

    This was one of the rare books where I almost felt sad because I could not experience the joy and satisfaction of reading the prose for the very first time. I am looking forward to reading it again. This was my first Ozeki novel. I want to read them all now. The story is historical and metaphysical. I haven't read a book into the wee hours of the night in a very long time. I feel like it was written just for me in the same way that Nao is writing to Ruth from across a sea or across a universe.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2013

    Well-done and highly interesting

    Ruth Ozeki deftly captures the voice of a pre-tsunami Japanese teenage girl who is tormented at school by classmates and at home by fears of her family falling apart. Nao's words and actions ring very true. Ruth, Nao's middle-aged counterpart in Canada, is equally interesting but in a more subtle way. I don't want to give too much away but I will say that I read a lot and this book is one of the best books I've read this year. I found myself thinking about it many times after I put the book down. Like Ruth, I found myself worrying about Nao and hoping she would be OK.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    I fell in love with this book. Although there are some graphic bullying parts and some somewhat boring scientific information...the book captivates you. It is very well written and has many beautiful statements of life to enjoy.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read

    This is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. Ozeki is a master at subtlety and brings the story of found diary written by a 16 year old girl in Japan to the shores of British Colombia with wit, wisdom and charm. A MUST read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Beautifully Written, Intelligent, Strongly recommended

    A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. This book is so beautifully written and is peppered with interesting bits of information that I found to be wonderful. By the end of the book I knew bits about Zen Buddhism, particle physics, life in Japan and Schroedinger's cat, among other things. The book floats (probably) placed in a Hello Kitty lunch-box and in plastic bags along with a few other items and is found on the Canadian West coast. It finds its way into the hands of an author and her husband who is able (with great difficulty) to put together a translation. Characters in Japan and Canada are impacted by the book. A beautifully written, exceptional book. Strongly recommended.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2013

    Great book

    At first I wasn't sure I'd like it since I normally don't read books like this, but I'm glad I gave it a try because it's amazing. It's a good mix of physics and a family's troubles. My favorite character was Nao. She was so likeable, relateable, and realistic. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to read an interesting feel good book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    A Tale of Adolescent Self-Absorption

    Perhaps I'm not the intended reader, but I really wanted to enjoy this book; I just couldn't. The protagonist is a teenager who alternates between normal adolescent angst and bizarre fantasies, all written in a journal that she hopes will be found. The couple who find have their own issues as a couples and neuroses as individuals, all of it analyzed here. The problem is that not one of these characters is compelling enough to make me care about their problems or their outcome.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2013

    This book rambled on and on. The story could have been more than

    This book rambled on and on. The story could have been more than written in 250 pages. Sorry I bought it.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    Boring

    Zen rambling is not as interesting as the firey entanglements of Ozeki's previous novels.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2014

    Beautiful and Amazing A Tale for the Time Being is beautifully w

    Beautiful and Amazing
    A Tale for the Time Being is beautifully written Ruth Ozeki absolutely captivated me in this story of character Ruth who casually takes a walk
    on the shore and what seems to be an act of serendipity comes across a diary of a girl named Nao. so touching and moving its timeless. when i was reading this book
    i left like Ruth as if Nao was writing to me in another time. the facts in this story of Japanese culture is true and the historical fiction this story has is
    amazing it opens the doors to the ways of Zen in which i found interesting as well. its just full of culture and beautifully written very enjoyable.       

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  • Posted July 1, 2014

    A Tale for the Time Being is an intelligent and deeply-moving no

    A Tale for the Time Being is an intelligent and deeply-moving novel which not only entertains and educates but also probes cross-culturally shared issues and values.




    On her stroll down the beach, Ruth, a middle-aged Japanese-American woman, finds a diary written by a 16-year-old Japanese girl named Nao, who has been uprooted from her US home. Back in Japan, Nao was bullied at school and witnessed her parents sink into deep depression. As a distraction from her gloomy life, Nao started a secret diary, whose imaginary reader became her confidant and the only friend. As soon as Ruth starts reading Nao’s diary, she finds herself deeply concerned with Nao and her family’s well-being. As Ruth becomes increasingly consumed with the diary, a series of mysterious coincidences occur, and the boundaries between time and space start to blur.




    A Tale for the Time Being is undeniably a page-turner. Just like Ruth the character, I found myself drawn into the mystery of Nao and her family’s fate. Another reason I could not put down this book was the exceptionally clear and seemingly effortless writing style. I especially enjoyed informal, straightforward and refreshingly youthful Nao’s narrative. Ozeki also masterfully employed symbolism and analogies. Every single object or event seemed to be there for a reason, contributing to the novel’s mysterious vibe. While reading this novel, I learned a lot of interesting things about oceanography, history, quantum mechanics, and Zen Buddhism, just to name a few. All the facts were woven into the story so skillfully that they all seemed like a crucial piece of the novel.




    Despite its unputdownable nature, sometimes I just wanted to stop reading and meditate over some ideas prompted in this book: the relationships between the writer and the reader, the meaning and importance of living NOW, the concept of Zen moments, our shared humanity, and the boundaries between fact and fiction, past, presence and future. A Tale for the Time Being also sheds some light on the widespread issues such as bullying, loneliness, and pressures of modern societies. Although touching such serious issues might set a gloomy tone, at no point this novel sounds judgmental or preachy. The author’s message is rather uplifting, reminding us of the the timeless values: love, hope, compassion, courage and sacrifice.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2014

    Ryyfrt

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    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2014

    Indescribable blend of magical realism and Zen Buddhism

    Difficult to describe this book, other than to say it is delightful, uplifting, and thoroughly entertaining. It weaves a somewhat fanciful story of a diary washed up on a Pacific NW coast, probably from the Japanese tsunami. The woman who winds up with the diary becomes obsessed with figuring out whether the writer of the diary survived the catastrophe. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we get to meet the writer, who is a delightful and complex Japanese teenager. The book keeps you guessing, teaches you a great deal about Japanese culture, World War II kamikaze pilots, Zen Buddhists nuns, and living as a creative person on a remote Gulf Island. Wow.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    Very interesting--the intermingling of cultures and much more

    This book was a bit difficult, especially if you don't read Japanese. There was a lot of jumping around from the main story to the footnotes or glossary at the end to pick up the meaning of words or phrases. However, it was worth it. American viewpoints and Japanese viewpoints from the Second World War through the Tsunami keep you searching for the truth. An entrancing read.

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  • Posted March 7, 2014

    AN UNPLEASANT TALE.

    "I am a time being about to expire"—page 343

    Thematically too dark and uncomfortable for my tastes, though compelling reading none-the-less, A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING, by Ruth Ozeki is probably the best written novel I've ever almost been sorry I read.

    Recommendation: If you liked THE DINNER, by Herman Koch, you'll most likely enjoy this tale.

    "...and then they slid her into the oven like a pizza."—page 364

    NOOKbook editions, 587 pages

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  • Posted January 27, 2014

    A Page Turner!

    The story is heartbreaking at times, sweetly joyous at others and a cultural and historical education. Did you ever wonder how some of the suicide bombers felt as they turned their planes toward Pearl Harbor? Did you ever wonder what happened to the lives of Japanese immigrants who bet on Silicon Valley in the 1980's only to watch it go bust? How would any American raised girl fare in the Japanese educational system? A diary is found on a beach and a Japanese-American writer tries to figure out if the book is decades old or if the story being told is unfolding before her, meaning that a confused young girl's life may be at stake. The diary is addressed to "The Time Being"; therefore, the diary reader is a fellow entity that becomes a partner in time and space as the plot unfolds. This is a mystical story that brings tears and smiles.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    Good read but disappointed

    I thought this was going to be my new favorite book and then it ended.... guess the author was in a hurry to wrap up an otherwise lovely book written with beautiful thought and character. The author takes her time to craft the tale and then goes off on a weird quantom mechanics bend. Still thinking it could be salvaged, I was only disappointed again with a saccharin epilogue that left me disbelieving that it really was the end of the book!

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