A Tale for the Time Being. By Ruth Ozeki (New York : Viking, 2013. 422 pp.)
Recommendation by PNW & Special Collections
When a diary sails across the Pacific in a Hello Kitty lunchbox to the shore of an island in British Columbia, it is recovered by a novelist named Ruth recently relocated from New York City. In this diary a teenage girl finds sanctuary, purging into its pages her daily trials as she adjusts and copes with brutal Japanese classmates and a youth culture alien to her, musing on her relocation from the United States, ranting about and reflecting upon the failings of her parents, and making personal revelations catalyzed by her Great-Grandmother, Jiko, a Zen Buddhist Priest. Ruth (the character) serves as the primary witness to Nao’s sufferings as Ruth herself manages her own grief, isolation, writer’s block, and hindered sense of self alongside her drive to discover the mysterious fate of this child author.
The book within the book grapples bullying, culture shock, economic hard times, and asks questions of ethical duty and the potential price a family pays to reconcile the legacy they share. The author of Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki, like the story’s great-grandmother, is a Zen Buddhist Priest and was ordained in 2010. She divides her time between the Pacific Northwest and New York City. Whatever parallels you wish to draw from this are up to you.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013, this is a highly recommended read. The book on the whole plays with history, time, and biography pulling and snapping back each element like narrative putty. It is refreshingly unsentimental in its humanistic approach, and the tale’s stylistically bold design is jeweled with relatable characters.
Ms. Ozeki will also be in Washington as the opening speaker for the 2014-15 Artist and Lecture Series at South Puget Sound Community College, on Oct 9th.
Available at the State Library’s Pacific Northwest Collections, NW 813.6 OZEKI 2013
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