Sunday, 20 October 2019

A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
First published by Viking in March 2013. Audiobook edition narrated by Ruth Ozeki published by Canongate in March 2013.

One of my WorldReads from Canada

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook via Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you."

Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery. In a small cafe in Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyber-bullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place - and voice - through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.

Weaving across continents and decades, and exploring the relationship between reader and writer, fact and fiction, A Tale for the Time Being is an extraordinary novel about our shared humanity and the search for home.

This review was first blogged on Stephanie Jane in May 2014.

I listened to the audio version of A Tale For The Time Being which is nicely read by Ruth Ozeki herself. There is an interesting few minutes after the novel finishes when she talks about the differences between the print and audio versions and I'm confident I chose the right one this time!

The novel is made up of several story strands and I found the Japanese characters fascinating. Nao and her family allows the reader to discover life in contemporary Japan, her great-uncles' letters and diary illuminate WW2 Japan, her great-great-aunt is a Buddhist nun in a temple. By contrast, the other side of the tale, Ruth and Oliver living on a Canadian island, I found irritating and, certainly in Oliver's case, pompous. He came across as a device to explain factual information the reader needed to know and Ruth as a bit of a dimwit on the receiving end of his lectures.

Ozeki explores a lot of theories, environmental and scientific, philosophical and religious. Some of these slot naturally into a story, others felt awkwardly shoehorned. Overall I thought this was a good book, unusual enough to keep my interest while walking my commutes and I'm glad to have heard it read by the author.

Etsy Find!
by Kreativ Werkstatt 24 in
Bulach, Switzerland

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Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Ruth Ozeki / Mystery fiction / Books from Canada


  1. I borrowed an audio from the library but I have a physical copy of this book. I absolutely loved it!

    1. I enjoyed my audio edition too :-) Ozeki did a fab job of the narration