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A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki


“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…”

Spanning the planet from Tokyo’s Electric Town to Desolation Sound, British Columbia, and connected by the great Pacific gyres, A Tale for the Time Being tells the story of a diary washed ashore inside a Hello Kitty lunchbox and the profound effect it has on the woman who discovers it.

A Tale for the Time Being is a powerful story about the ways in which reading and writing connect two people who will never meet. Spanning the planet from Tokyo’s Electric Town to Desolation Sound, British Columbia, and connected by the great Pacific gyres, A Tale for the Time Being tells the story of a diary, washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, and the profound effect it has on the woman who discovers it.

Open up this book and discover: an earthquake-causing catfish, a hundred-and-four-year-old Buddhist nun, French maid cafes in a manga-fied world, cyberbullying, natural disasters, Zen philosophy, the infinite possibilities of time, and an uplifting story of love, loss, and wisdom old and new.

I love it!  A Tale for the Time Being is equal parts mystery and meditation.  The mystery is a compulsive, gritty page-turner.  The meditation — on time and memory, on the oceanic movement of history, on impermanence and uncertainty, but also resilience and bravery –  is deep and gorgeous and wise.  A completely satisfying, continually surprising, wholly remarkable achievement, this is a book to be read and reread.  

~ Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austin Book Club

“Ozeki is one of my favorite novelists and here she is at her absolute best—bewitching, intelligent, hilarious, and heartbreaking, often on the same page.”

~Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

My Review

 Magical storytelling within these pages, humanity in its many shades played out in a great tale with wonderful memorable characters pitted against adversity with bravery, patience and resilience.

Very stark true and brutal realities dealt with in this story of one girl. The author done well in painting her canvas and successfully left me with two vivid opposite images, one peace and spirit and another of cold brutality, scenes from these pages may linger with you and you may be moved and thought provoked. When you sleep you may dream of the young girl trapped in a web of brutal bullying, exploitation, and suicide and then you may turn in your sleep having a strange nightmare of Extra Terrestrial like frail woman walking around naked, which all come from scenes of the young souls life in this tale.

The author has the spotlight on very serious and plaguing issues in society such as suicide, bullying, and our universe with humor in the young girls narrative. This is told in first person narrative and has a great connection with the reader right from the get go your are called to account and become immersed and embedded in the story. A mediation work in some ways, on time and memory, a glorious splendor on courage and the beauty of humanity against the darkness of the heart.

A read that will be hitting a lot of best of 2013 lists! Original and an important work of literary fiction that is long overdue and needed in today’s tidal wave and onslaught of adversities that humanity faces.

Storytelling with slices of darkness and light, yin and yang, a sheer work of brilliance.

“Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader’s eye.
Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.”

“When old Jiko talks about the past, her eyes get all inward-turning, like she’s staring at something buried deep inside her body in the marrow of her bones. Her eyes are milky and blue because of her cataracts, and when she turns them inward, its like she’s moving into another world thats frozen deep inside ice, Jiko calls her cataracts Kuuge which means “flowers of emptiness.”
I think thats beautiful.”

“Sometimes when grown-ups are talking to you, and you stare back at them, they start to like they’re inside one of those old-fashioned TV sets, the kind with the thick dark glass, and you can see their mouths moving, only the exact words get drowned out into a lot of staticky white noise so you can barely understand them, which didn’t matter because I wasn’t listening anyway. Mom was talking on and on like a breakfast TV show host, and Muji was burping and trilling like a drunken sparrow, and Jiko was pretending to sleep, Dad was exhaling clouds of cigarette smoke into my clean underpants that were still hanging on the laundry line because in all the excitement Id forgotten to take them down,but none of this mattered because I was deep inside my mind, which is where I go when things get too intense.”

‘ ‘Tomorrow I will die in battle,’ said Captain Crow.
Montaigne wrote that death itself is nothing. It is only the fear of death that makes death seem important. Am I afraid? Certainly, and yet…
“Que sais-je?” Montaigne asked. The answer is nothing. In reality, I know nothing.
And yet, at night I lie on my bed, counting my beads, one for every thing on earth I love, on and on, in a circle without end.”

“Making the decision to end my life really helped me lighten up, and suddenly all the stuff my old Jiko had told me about the time being really kicked into focus. There’s nothing like realising that you don’t have much time left to stimulate your appreciation for the moments of your life. I mean it sounds corny, but I started to really experience stuff for the first time, like the beauty of the plum and cherry blossoms along the avenues in Ueno Park, when the trees are in bloom. I spent whole days there, wandering up and down these long, soft tunnels of pink clouds and gazing overhead at the fluffy blossoms, all puffy and pink with little sparkles of sunlight and blue sky glinting between the bright green leaves. Time disappeared and it was like being born into the world all over again. Everything was perfect. When a breeze blew, petals rained down on my upturned face, and I stopped and gasped, stunned by the beauty and sadness.”

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 08 March 2013