Published by Viking Adult on March 12, 2013
Genres/Lists: Diverse, Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
You know how sometimes you read a book and it raises so many philosophical questions that you know you’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come? Well, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is one of those books. On the one hand, it’s a novel, but on the other it’s a philosophical discussion about life, time, and what’s real in this world. This is likely because the author is a Zen Buddhist nun, so she’s dedicating her life to these questions, but the way she manages to weave them into the story itself is incredible.
On the novel side, this is a story about two women who are oceans apart. Nao, a teenager living in Japan who wants to kill herself, wrote a diary. Years later, Ruth, an author in Canada, finds the diary and can’t stop wondering whether Nao followed through with her plans. The book narratives alternate between the two women, and as the story progresses we learn about Nao’s life in Japan as a bullied teenager with a precarious home situation and Ruth’s solitary existence with her husband in a tiny seaside town. Both women are just trying to survive in a world that is drowning them and, through the words written in a diary, they find each other.
The story itself is both heart-wrenching and uplifting, with Nao delving into her past to find out more about her Zen Buddhist nun grandmother’s life and Ruth going along for the ride. Together, they experience Nao being bullied at school, her time with her grandmother, and her feeling of disconnect from everything around her. Despite being shrouded in sadness, Nao manages to stay upbeat and her portions of the book (her diary entries) were my favorite part.A Tale for the Time Being by @ozekiland is a stunning blend of story and philosophy. Click To Tweet
As for the philosophical discussions, they threw my head through a loop. Can we communicate with the dead? What happens to time after it’s gone? Where does it go? Can you be in two places at once? What does it mean to be alive? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? These are the questions the book had me asking myself and, to be honest, I still don’t have a clue what the answers are. Regardless, the book was a wandering ride and I’m better off for it.
Recommended for: Anyone who likes a book that makes you think about what the meaning of life is and isn’t afraid to read about the more harrowing parts of life.