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.



REVIEWS

"Many of the elements of Nao’s story — schoolgirl bullying, unemployed suicidal “salarymen,” kamikaze pilots — are among a Western reader’s most familiar images of Japan, but in Nao’s telling, refracted through Ruth’s musings, they become fresh and immediate, occasionally searingly painful. Ozeki takes on big themes in “A Tale for the Time Being” — not just the death of individuals but also the death of the planet. In doing so, she ranges widely, drawing in everything from quantum mechanics and the theory of infinite possibilities in an infinite number of universes to the teachings of the 13th-century Zen master Dogen Zenji. There’s even a crow with possibly magical powers. All are drawn into the stories of two “time beings,” Ruth and Nao, whose own fates are inextricably bound."  -New York Times Book Review

"Her knowledge of Buddhist texts sparks footnotes on many pages of this novel, as does her knowledge of Japanese. As we read Nao's story and the story of Ozeki's reading of it, as we go back and forth between the text and the notes, time expands for us. It opens up onto something resembling narrative eternity. And that's not a bad thing. Page after page, slowly unfolding. And what a beautiful effect that is for a novel to create." -NPR Book Review

"The point, of course, is that we are all more than one person, one perspective, that identity is in a constant state of flux. But even more, Ozeki's move telegraphs that the book is going to play with our preconceptions, that it will shift on us, turn on us, that it will be as difficult to pin down as a wisp of smoke.

All of that is true of "A Tale for the Time Being," which is why (let's not be coy) it's such an exquisite novel: funny, tragic, hard-edged and ethereal at once." -LA Times Book Review

"Nao also has identity issues that stray beyond normal teen drama. Certain diary entries strain credulity, such as Nao’s descriptions of the complicity of teachers and an elaborately staged mock funeral. But most of the writing resonates with an immediacy and rawness that is believable and touching." -Boston Globe Book Review

"The warmth, compassion, wisdom and insight with which Ozeki pieces all these stories together will have the reader linked in a similarly profound way to this fantastic novel." -Independent Book Review

For a more complete list of awards and reviews, visit the author's website.