A Tale For The Time Being

Paperback | December 31, 2013

byRuth Ozeki

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On a remote island in the Pacific Northwest, a Hello Kitty lunchbox washes up on the beach. Tucked inside is a collection of curious items, including the diary of a sixteenyear-old Japanese girl named Nao Yasutani. Ruth, who finds the lunchbox, suspects that it is debris from Japan’s devastating 2011 tsunami. Once Ruth starts to read the diary, she quickly finds herself drawn into the mystery of the young girl’s fate.

In a manga café in Tokyo’s Electric Town, Nao has decided there’s only one escape from the loneliness and pain of her life, as she’s uprooted from her U.S. home, bullied at school, and watching her parents spiral deeper into disaster. But before she ends it all, she wants to accomplish one thing: to recount the story of her great-grandmother, a 104-year-old Zen Buddhist nun, in the pages of her diary. The diary, Nao’s only solace, is her cry for help to a reader she can only imagine.

Full of Ozeki’s signature humour and insight, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.

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From the Publisher

On a remote island in the Pacific Northwest, a Hello Kitty lunchbox washes up on the beach. Tucked inside is a collection of curious items, including the diary of a sixteenyear-old Japanese girl named Nao Yasutani. Ruth, who finds the lunchbox, suspects that it is debris from Japan’s devastating 2011 tsunami. Once Ruth starts to read t...

RUTH OZEKI is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Shambhala Sun, and More, among other publications. In June 2010, she was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest and is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City.

other books by Ruth Ozeki

My Year Of Meats: A Novel
My Year Of Meats: A Novel

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The Face: A Time Code
The Face: A Time Code

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see all books by Ruth Ozeki
Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 8.5 × 5.3 × 1 inPublished:December 31, 2013Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143187422

ISBN - 13:9780143187424

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Customer Reviews of A Tale For The Time Being


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not too many English language novels feature an elderly Buddhist nun A skillful exploration of the intertwined lives of three women: a Japanese teenager, her Buddhist nun grandmother, and a writer on a beautiful but isolated island off the coast of British Columbia. A must read for anyone looking for a poignant but not at all sentimental read.
Date published: 2017-01-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mixed Feeings Overall, this book was well-written and very interesting. However, as with any book with two narrators, I preferred one over the other. Nao's story engrossed me. At her parts, I could hardly put the book down. I found myself relating to her and wanting to know more. At Ruth's parts, I couldn't wait to be finished. I almost wanted to skip her sections entirely—I found them boring and unneededly interjected. I almost considered stopping the book when their two stories began to merge. I feel like the entire novel would have been a much stronger piece if comprised of Nao's sections alone. However, I understand that the ending would have likely been a lot different. Read at your own discretion. Decide if the haunting beauty of Nau is worth the bore of Ruth.
Date published: 2016-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from but memories are time beings, too, like cherry blossoms or ginkgo leaves; for a while they are beautiful, and then they fade and die. i highly recommend this book to anyone who has their hands on it. it’s a long read, but it’s quite interesting and engrossing. it’s not a story that’s full of an intense and powerful climax, but the general aspect of the story is very strong and it pulls you in. all of the characters and scenes are crafted beautifully and the placement of each scene and doings of a character is perfectly put in place. highly recommend!
Date published: 2016-11-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great summer reading sitting on my shelf for a long time, this summer it felt right to pick it up and read through it. This is the kind of the book that calms me down - no exciting up and downs but let the story develop through almost flat narratives - flat but meaningfully complex, emotionally healing - typical Japanese narratives. The first half was slow and almost dull. The author really takes time to develop the storyline; the second half paces up and becomes intriguing. The book is intricate with east Asian culture as well as the author's profound understanding of Zen Buddhism. I wasn't able to fully appreciate the subtlety and the originality of the plot conception until the very end. You read about death (another topic recurring in Japanese literature) but really, the story is about living - le mal du vivre, qu'il faut bien vivre - life is painful, but we must solider on. It's a marvellous journey of self discovery and thus a thought-provoking book. If you are more into dystopia/vampire/zombie/heroic characters kind of stuff, then this book may not be for you. But if you've experienced the pain of life and enjoy some quiet personal time, you may find this book a are company.
Date published: 2015-08-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from the power of Nao I enjoyed reading A Tale for the Time Being.  It was a long read for me (I prefer books of less than 300 pages) but worth the time.   I could relate to the life of Ruth and Oliver on Cortez Island (BC) yet it was the story of Nao and her family in Japan that really drew me into the book. The bullying that Nao endures at the hands of her classmates and her father/Haruki's mental despair paint a dark and painful picture of this 'returned' Japanese family. I initially found it difficult to understand how Ruth's discovery on the other side of the Pacific could change this sad situation.  But then a great-grandmother Zen nun and quantum mechanics come into play. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Nao and her great-grandmother. It was comforting and encouraging.  I plan to give this book to my daughters.  
Date published: 2014-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Japan revealed in a truly novel way Brilliant book from beginning to end. Set in Japan and British Columbia, now and in the recent past and during the second World War. Wonderful insights into Japanese culture and Zen and a fascinating depiction of the mind of a teenage Japanese girl. A plot that keeps you reading and beautifully drawn characters. One of the best, maybe the best book I have read all year!
Date published: 2013-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Tale for the Time Being This was an amazingly written novel with a unique and captivating storyline. The novel follows the life of a woman living in BC and a young girl living in Japan. It brings these two stories together in the most interesting way, dealing with tradition and modernism and the similarities and differences between two cultures. It was an absolute pleasure to read and I often had a hard time putting it down at the end of the night. Highly recommend!
Date published: 2013-07-03

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Editorial Reviews

“Masterfully woven. Entwining Japanese language with WWII history, pop culture with Proust, Zen with quantum mechanics, Ozeki alternates between the voices of two women to produce a spellbinding tale.” - O, The Oprah Magazine