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.
~Taken from Goodreads
This book was amazing. Let me tell you why.
It’s a story about a person reading a story, but you know how you wish you could interact with the characters you’re reading about? Or how you wish you could- somehow- reach through the boundaries of ink and paper and let the character know “Hey, I’m reading about you and I think you’re amazing, no matter what the secondary characters who bully you say”. This is literally what happens in the book and I thought it was magical. (yes, it really was magical).
(did you see the sarcasm there) (i don’t think you did)
The book’s narration is divided between third person Ruth and first person Nao. Personally, I didn’t really like reading Ruth’s parts because although she is a main character, she seemed to pale in contrast to Nao- who really stood out with her diary entries and her musings. I used to read Nao’s narrations eagerly and then wait for her to come back again when it was Ruth’s turn. Ruth wasn’t boring or anything. It’s just that you know how you put a glass of air and a glass of water together? The glass of water will take your attention, even though air is much more important. So Ruth was important too (hey, she was the one reading the diary. If she didn’t read the diary, we wouldn’t have been able to read it either!)
Nao’s diary is really the most interesting and unique diary, fictional or otherwise, I have ever come to read so far. She talks about how she used to live in California, how she had to suddenly move back to Japan, how she can’t seem to fit in, how she realizes her parents didn’t tell her about their situation, how she gets by with bullying and how Jiko, the Buddhist nun, turns her life around and changes her perspective.
I related with a lot of things that Nao talked about, like trying to stay in contact with friends who now live on the other side of the Earth, her “homesickness” for California and her thoughts on forgiving people. Nao really pulls you in to her situation, which seems pretty hopeless but she finds her ways to combat it (with magical help from her reader, Ruth).
The book covers way more than just Nao’s every day life and Ruth’s reading. It talks about war, how it turns young boys into soldiers, and humanity, how you could still be yourself even when all your “choices” have been taken from you because there is always a choice, no matter how bleak your circumstances might be (lesson learnt from Haruki #1).
I think my favorite parts in the book where when Nao spends her summer with Jiko and when she realizes how her dad (Haruki #2) made a choice, just like Haruki #1 and even though it was a good choice, it left his family in a not-very-good position, how she misjudged him and how proud she feels when she realizes what he actually did. Nao’s dad is an amazing person (don’t judge him by the first half of the book) and the whole story is just.
Go read it. Put it on your list and READ IT.