Sunday, 4 May 2014

Review: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki | Sister Sundays

Book: A Tale for the Time Being

Author: Ruth Ozeki

Pages: 432

I Read: The paperback

I read it in: 8-9 hours, across 2 days

Plot Summary: 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 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 a 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 humour 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.

Thoughts and Review: Let me first get this out of the way, I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book. It is moving, thought-provoking, gripping and just plain brilliant! This is the first Ruth Ozeki novel that I have read and I am a fan! This is such an uplifting story about just being human, being a victim of circumstances that are bigger than you and, finally, using your determination and spirit to live the best life you possibly can! 

I was drawn into this book from Page 1 and I couldn't let go of the book even after I finished reading it. 

So, there are about 3-4 stories going on in this book. First, we have Nao. Nao is sixteen, in Tokyo and struggling. Her father, a victim of the 2000 dot-com bust, has relocated the family from the Silicon Valley to Tokyo and Nao is struggling to fit in. She is being bullied at school, she finds it impossible to be sufficiently Japanese (because deep down she feels she is more American than Japanese) and her family, especially her dad, is falling apart. Nao's story is that of a struggle to make sense of a difficult phase in your life that has been handed to you and that you simply have to get through in order to be your future self. Her journey is just so transcendental and uplifting. I loved Nao- her voice, her struggles, her wisdom, her decisions. Everything. 

Then, we have Nao's great-grandmother- Jiko. A feminist, a revolutionary, a nun. A woman who has lived through hard times and has yet found it in herself to forgive, to let go. Even at 104, she ends up being the one who saves Nao in more ways than one. 

The other key character in this story is Ruth. Ruth is a writer who is dealing with a massive writer's block. She is unsure (and perhaps even unhappy) with her life in a little island off the Canadian coast. She is pulled into Nao's story and through Nao's journey, Ruth begins to slowly come to terms with her issues and fears and begins to live her life again. 

We are taken on a journey from World War II Japan to Tokyo at the turn of the 21st century to a little Pacific Northwest island in present day. We see characters deal with sad and complex emotions and life-altering questions and emerge somewhat triumphant and fundamentally changed from their experiences. 

This is a brilliant book. It is well-written, almost lyrical, has beautifully etched characters, makes you think, makes you feel and stays with you long after you are done reading it. I highly, highly recommend this book! 

Will You Like It?: Yes, if you enjoy good stories and learning about different cultures, you will love this book. 

Rating: 5/5

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