Book Review: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Readers of mine, those of you who have been around a while know I like to read books. Since I was in the 4th grade I have read westerns by Louis L’Amour. Science Fiction has been, and continues to be a mainstay genre for me. As does good sword and sorcery fantasy.  Old school adventures like early novels from Clive Cussler will always suck me in.

I also like historical fiction, adventure travel and cycling yarns.

There are times I have stretched my reading chops a bit. As part of a Facebook Book club, I did in fact read a Nicholas Sparks book (Michelle says it made me VERY cranky) and I once got suckered into a book written by the author who wrote about vampires that sparkle. DOUBLE UGH!!

There are times I will take a leap of faith with my reading though. (But as god as my witness I will NEVER read Nicholas Sparks again! ) I like to try new books. They aren’t always easy, but in the end it is most often worth it.

This recommendation came from my bestest blogger buddy Sarah Burch of Honoring My Compass. She recommended A Tale for the Time Being, about a month ago. She also wondered if it would end up as a book review blog post.

Well last night, after a marathon session, I finished it, I liked it and it is worth the post! Here you go Sarah…

Fist off, let me tell you, if I had happened to pick this book up at a stop and read the back, I woulda put it back and moved on. This is the reason we SHOULD take recommendations from our friends. (But NOT Nicholas Sparks, EVER!!  (OK I promise no more Sparks bashing(During this post)))

In this book is Ruth who lives on a remote Canadian island on the Pacific coast. One of her favorite things to do beach comb. This, I firmly believe, is the reason this book jumped out at Sarah to recommend it to me. I LOVE beach combing, you just never know what you will find.

I am going to pause for a second here.  I am going to be VERY careful with this review. I think this book is well worth reading, but it is NOT the normal book I review. When reviewing cycling adventures, one almost always knows the hero makes it in the end, so is no worry about spoiler alerts. In this book I REALLY don’t want to ruin the ending, or hell even the middle, of the story, so I will do my best to speak about it, but not tell you much! Sorry if I mess up.

Back to the review!

This story takes place a few years after the big earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It was well-known that flotsam and jetsam from this disaster would float across the Pacific to land here.

Don’t believe it? Well lookie here…

Michelle and I were down in Newport in 2012 to see this HUGE dock that had floated across and beached itself.

In the story, Ruth, who is an author, discovers something MUCH smaller but very much MORE intriguing. It is a Hello Kitty lunch box wrapped in a ziplock bag. (The bag had barnacles on it, showing how long it had floated in the ocean.)

Inside the lunchbox was a Diary written by a 15 year old girl named Naoko Yasutani, (Nao for short) Who had lived in the US for quite a while, but who had to move back to Japan when the Dotcom bubble burst and her dad got laid off. This part in important as the diary was written in English, which she was more fluent in than Japanese. There are also a number of OLD letters written in French and a watch that was worn by a Kamikaze pilot in WWII.

Just one spoiler, the letters and watch come from her great-uncle Haruki, a Japanese pilot in WWII. For more, you WILL have to read the book. 

In the first page Nao tells us she is a Time Being, which is someone who lives in time. My thinking is it is someone who is aware of now, but also of the past and future. Someone who knows why time flies and drags, and can affect it on purpose. Finally, someone who can talk to the past and future, plus ignore all in the now! A time Being!

And from here the story starts bouncing back and forth.

Ruth starts reading the diary. And we learn about Nao, her problems with school and being bullied (which doesn’t really suffice in all that she goes through) her problems at home with a father who wants to commit suicide as he can’t find a job in Japan, and ultimately, how she herself wants to commit suicide.

After each section, we then jump to Ruth who becomes consumed with Nao. She wants to help the poor girl. She spends time trying to find Nao’s family on the internet, searching for any clue that there survived the earthquake and Tsunami. The more she reads, the more she gets sucked in. Until really nothing else matters.

So we have an abused  teen age girl wanting to commit suicide and an obsessed  woman about my age, who starts losing touch with reality and only cares about her. Which at this point, might make you “WOW, what a depressing book!!”

But enter Jiko, Nao’s 104 year old Great-GREAT Grandma! This 5 foot bald old woman comes into their lives just when Nao needs her. But trust me, this is not an after school special. Life really does NOT improve that much… Honestly you will truly want to know what happens, but I am NOT gonna tell ya!

Last night, I read the second the half of the book in one sitting, where the first half took 2 weeks. Last night there were ghosts, time travel, and revelations I never expected. I also learned that there is a distinct possibility that a reader, who truly is invested in a book, truly loves the story, can honestly have an effect on the ending… But unless you read this you won’t have a clue what I am talking about.

Three  more things about this book.

First: Nao, in her diary made things seem SO realistic and real, including videos that were uploaded to YouTube, that I had to stop myself from trying to find them myself using the interwebs… Just seemed silly to try.

Second: I am glad I read this using the Kindle app on the iPad. There were many MANY footnotes next to terms that were used. All I had to do was tap on the footnote and it popped right up for me. I know it would be easy to do with a real book, but I liked the convenience.

Finally, a shout out to one of my favorite characters, Ruth’s husband Oliver. He is a nerdy science geek who likes to watch birds, and plant trees. He worries about climate change, but loves living out in the middle of nowhere. He genuinely adores his wife, and listens as she reads him the diary from the teenage girl. But, sadly, he “thinks like a boy” using logic instead of his heart, and just missed the point sometimes. I get the feeling Oliver and I would get along GREAT!!!

OH, one last thing Nao has a few thoughts about having a blog that I think will warrant its own post someday….

But all in all, I liked the book a lot. I learned things, I was truly surprised at what ended up happening, and it left me with questions that I will have to make up my own answers to. It was worth the read, and I really do hope to meet Oliver someday.

4 stars!  Why 4? Because it took a while for me to really get into it, and there is some work involved to figure out everything the author says.

It would make a good stocking stuffer!


2 thoughts on “Book Review: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

  1. How fun to read your book review of “A Tale for the Time Being”! I had forgotten many of the details of the book (I had listened to it as an audiobook)!

    Reading this book encouraged me to look at beach junk differently. Every item that washes ashore has a story to tell. Heck, *every item* on this planet has a story to tell! Life is shinier when you keep that thought in the forefront of your mind.

    Your Bestest Blogger Buddy

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