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A Tale for the Time Being

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  47,191 Ratings  ·  6,787 Reviews
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,
Hardcover, 422 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Viking (first published March 11th 2013)
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Harriet Flight If you limit yourself to books that are 'age appropriate' you will only know a very small world. If you wish to read it, read it!
I can tell you that…more
If you limit yourself to books that are 'age appropriate' you will only know a very small world. If you wish to read it, read it!
I can tell you that there are distressing scenes and the like, but we live in a distressing world. Don't limit yourself!
Have a go at it. The writing may be hard to read - depending on your reading experience.
I love this book; even with its subject matter.
I hope you will like it too.(less)
Erin There are probably more similarities here than can be gleaned from her biography on the back leaflet. For example, Oliver really is working on a Neo…moreThere are probably more similarities here than can be gleaned from her biography on the back leaflet. For example, Oliver really is working on a Neo Eocene project (photos of Ruth in the project here:
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiThe Lowland by Jhumpa LahiriThe Luminaries by Eleanor CattonTransAtlantic by Colum McCannThe Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
2013 Man Booker Prize Longlist
1st out of 13 books — 244 voters
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene WeckerLife After Life by Kate AtkinsonA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Interesting Books of 2013
4th out of 326 books — 974 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 25, 2013 Zaphoddent rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rebecca Foster
If I’d had my way, the 2013 Man Booker Prize would have gone to this novel-writing documentary filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priestess from British Columbia, Canada (by way of Japan). A Tale for the Time Being is a rich reflection on what it means to be human in an era of short attention spans, the dearth of meaning, and imminent environmental threat.

The time being: the present moment is what we’re stuck with now and must embrace. The time being: in the Buddhist viewpoint, each human is entrapped b
May 07, 2013 Teresa rated it it was amazing
What a ride. This novel sucked me in and then spit me out, leaving me gasping as it did. I can't say this book is perfect. It's probably a bit flawed, as many novels are, but with the totality of it meaning so much more than any flaws might take away. None of these flaws come from the writing itself, though, and if you feel some things here and there are a bit slow, please be patient -- Zen Buddhism is a big theme after all -- it picks up quickly and flows again, almost immediately.

There are man
I attended the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference this week. Just before an afternoon workshop on Wednesday, I chatted with a woman who is writing her memoir.

“I don’t read fiction,” she told me. “Are there any good female writers?”

Not “Are there any female writers you’d recommend?” Just, “Are there any good ones?”

Never mind the 813 ways I wanted to respond to the question. I thought of the last great book I’d read, which happened to be written by a woman. I began to tell her of A Tale for the

A Tale for the Time Being is like one of those assorted platters you get in restaurants - there is a little bit of everything but not everything is necessarily appealing. Unlike dining, however, I'm not at the liberty to pick and choose here. Consequently, my reaction to the overall book is kind of hazy. Some portions blew me away (mostly the last quarter). Some portions made me think. Some broke my heart, some left me appalled, some put me to sleep. And then there were these parts that I sim

Rare is the book which I have simultaneously loved and hated. Rare is the book which has deftly pried open the shell of visible reality to expose the pliant flesh of the human condition with such loving care yet disappointingly sacrificed narrative integrity to manipulate the reader's emotions in the end.

The Nao-narrated portion of the novel appears too served up to be believable. A beautifully decorated obento offered to the smug Western reader who sees Japan as a collage of stereotypes -
Mar 12, 2013 Pam rated it did not like it
Shelves: ya, fiction
Warning - everyone else in this world loves this book. It is the story of a teenager, Nao, in Toyko who decides to pour her soul into a diary that washes ashore in Canada into the hands of an author. The author becomes obsessed with Nao who tells the story (actually not really) of her great grandmother, a Buddhist Nun.
There are a ton of themes including East vs. West, search for home and roots, meaning of time, quantum physics, and search for peace and acceptance. Basically it is a metaphysical
Whitney Atkinson
Jan 09, 2016 Whitney Atkinson rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

Really interesting plot, compelling writing, and this book really made me think. I love how it has actual nuggets of information, so I actually learned things from this book, both about science and Japanese culture/Buddhism. I would recommend this one, but trigger warning for suicide and bullying.
T.D. Whittle
This is beautiful beautiful. The sixteen-year-old protagonist, Nao, and her 104-year-old great-grandmother, Jiko, are the life's blood of this wonderful book, but all of the characters are essential to the ensemble, which is one of the points of the book: the necessity of playing one's part in the Here and Now of life. A Tale for the Time Being is funny and tender and sad and sweet and brimming with the compassion and hope one would expect from a Buddhist priest (which Ozeki is, which I only jus ...more
Jun 09, 2015 Debbie rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Sitting here at the bistro with my best friends, and we all order the same exotic dish. They're licking their chops and raving about it. I’m liking it okay, but I get a few bursts of flavor that make me scrunch up my face. Sure, the sauce is great, but it's taking me forever to chew this meat. I'm so busy trying to digest it, I really can't even talk yet. This is an award-winning dish by a grand chef. What is WRONG with me? How come my friends don’t have to chew so much? Isn't the meat
Sep 30, 2014 Eve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, read-2014
"In reality, every reader, while he is reading, is the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument, which he offers to the reader to permit him to discern what, without the book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself. The reader’s recognition in his own self of what the book says is the proof of its truth."

Can I just say (Of course you can. Who's stopping you?) that this book blew my mind! I have that ridiculous Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures exp
Jun 26, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blog
3 1/2 Stars

You know that experience when you learn something new and only a few days later, references to it start popping up in the most unexpected of places: a television program, a book you're reading, a song on the radio, a friend mentions it in conversation? It's like the universe made certain you knew about this fact or concept because there was fixing to be a pop quiz over it and you needed to be ready. It's these types of connections and coincidences that make up A Tale for the Time Bein
Aaron T.
May 29, 2013 Aaron T. rated it it was ok
What a mess. I mean, a mess. There's so much excessive writing here, I was astounded at the sheer lack of editing and pruning--which this read needs a lot of.

That was the first that annoyed me. Details that are so stupid and repetitive, meaningless fodder that is in the way of getting on with a story.

I was astounded at how there was no real story here. A lot of good writing, albeit excessive, that goes nowhere.

A good 200 pages could have been excised, and maybe there would be
something worth rea
If a train that travels 3 kilometers per minute goes y kilometers in x minutes, then…etc., my mind would go numb and all I could think about was how a body would look at the moment of impact, and the distance a head might be thrown on the tracks, and how far the blood would spatter.
Listen up. The world doesn't live on humanity.
Japan isn’t a great thing to be a free anything, because free just means all alone and out of it.
Listen up. The world doesn't give a fuck about you.
"To a writer, this
Jan 05, 2014 jo rated it it was amazing
this book is about suicide. it says so in the first couple of pages so i'm not giving anything away. i know a lot about suicide. i am not an anti-suicide person. if someone feels it's their time to go; if they feel the pain is too much; if they have suffered long and terribly and see no end in sight, i say, goodbye my friend. in my modest personal experience, these people, the people with so much damage in them they find life a terrible ordeal day after fucking day tend to die early-ish anyway. ...more
Aug 09, 2013 Melanie rated it really liked it
I wish I could have read this wonderful novel of ideas in one sitting because it requires you to slow down and let its story and themes open up like a flower that takes a long time to open up and bloom. The characters are full-blooded and enticing, their struggles across time and geography deeply moving. A beautiful and poetic book about the invisible life lines that intersect and miss each other everyday, about how the past constantly lives and trembles inside us, how we should honor and rememb ...more
Jul 24, 2014 Wan rated it did not like it
Here are a few trigger warning topics to be aware of in this book (stop reading if you don't want to know):

-Attempted Rape
-Child Prostitution

Yes, all of that crammed into 432 pages. Here's the thing- I don't mind reading about characters going through abuse. It exists and we shouldn't ignore it. But when there's no plot advancing and it's just chapter after chapter about someone getting abused? It gets taxing. It's as if the author went, Hmm how am I going to t
Nov 07, 2015 Iris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, own, reviewed
I'm spellbound by this book. It's so thought provoking and the writing is so lyrical and melancholic. The ideas in this book will stay with me for a long time. One of my favourites, definitely!
I've just finished reading and really enjoyed this book with all of it's complexities. I enjoyed entering Ruth/Nao's world/worlds with all the speculation that entails. I am also drawn to much in Buddhist thought, though I really know little in that area, so the inclusion of so much Zen Buddhist thought is another plus for me.

In the basic story line, a plastic bag washes up on the shore of an island off British Columbia. In it, Ruth, an author, finds, among other things, a diary written by a Jap
Mar 27, 2013 Lou rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, literature
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
Oct 21, 2015 Antonomasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Tale for the Time Being currently has almost twice as many Goodreads ratings as any of the other Booker longlisted books. At an average of 4.04 stars from 3200 users, people obviously like it. It has four pages of adulation from the papers at the beginning and seems to have been turning into a word-of-mouth success. But I'd barely noticed it before, just the title, and I don't think I'd even read the synopsis.

I really clicked with much of it, which surprised me. The surprise of liking it wasn'
Jul 05, 2015 BrokenTune rated it it was amazing
“Do you think Nao is alive?” Ruth asked. “Hard to say. Is death even possible in a universe of many worlds? Is suicide? For every world in which you kill yourself, there’ll be another in which you don’t, in which you go on living. Many worlds seems to guarantee a kind of immortality . . .” She grew impatient then. “I don’t care about other worlds. I care about this one. I care whether she’s dead or alive in this world. And I want to know how her diary and the rest of the stuff washed up here, on ...more
Aug 24, 2013 Nicole~ rated it it was amazing
Nao and Zen

Every being that exists in the entire world is linked together as moments in time, and at the same time they exist as individual moments of time. Because all moments are the time being, they are your time being.
- Dōgen Zenji, Uji

Ruth, who finds Nao's diary washed up on shore in Whaletown, Vancouver, is an author suffering writer's block, at the same time haunted by memories of her mother's recent passing.

Suspecting that the diary may be debris from the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, she bec
switterbug (Betsey)
Jul 16, 2013 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was amazing
How do a century-old modern-thinking Buddhist nun, a WW II kamikaze pilot, a bullied 16-year-old Japanese schoolgirl on the verge of suicide, her suicidal father, a struggling memoirist on a remote island of British Columbia, Time, Being, Proust, language, philosophy, global warming, and the 2011 Japanese tsunami connect?

In this brilliantly plotted and absorbing, layered novel, one can find the theme in a quote from Proust, quoted by Ozeki:

"In reality, every reader, while he is reading, is the r
4.5 stars. This book covers so much ground, I'm not quite sure how to review it. I loved it. But at times, it's a difficult read. Most of the story comes from the point of view of a young girl being bullied in a Tokyo school. I really have a hard time understanding how even adults became involved in Nao's abuse. It wasn't hard to understand within the context of the story, does that happen? How does that become acceptable in any culture?

The other part of the narrative is told in the
Debbie "DJ" Wilson
Jul 20, 2014 Debbie "DJ" Wilson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What an incredible read. How to review such a read? I would start by saying, who knows anything at all about time and our relation to it. Do parallel universes exist, and if so, where are we now? This book raises so many questions while in itself tells a story. A woman who finds what appears to be trash wrapped in plastic along the beach. Upon further inspection, the contents inside reveal a diary, letters, and a watch. The diary becomes the main path we follow, written by a young girl, speaking ...more
Every picture I’ve seen of Ruth Ozeki shows her smiling broadly, like a woman who knows what happy is. How then, I wondered as I began this wonderful, fabulous, crazy novel, does she have her main characters contemplate suicide? This disconnect was one spur to my reading, and the other was the clarion voice and view of teenager Nao who told us of her life in Japan.

Ozeki does what great authors (e.g., Morrison, Saramago, Kertész) do: she takes critical, current questions we face as human beings
I have been deliberating for days on what to say about this book and how to "rate" it. This book is dense, with a capital D, with things to think about, feel and absorb. I believe this is a book of discovery for all concerned, the characters and the reader. And discovery of things that are not easy to articulate, but great to ponder and explore further.

Ruth lives with her husband Oliver (certainly based on the author and her real-life husband Oliver) on an island off of Vancouver, B.C. and one d

Something about the sound of this title sounds so simple, so straightforward--but this book is anything but. What is this? It’s realistic fiction with some magical realism elements, lots of philosophy and Zen Buddhism, and even some abstruse quantum physics thrown in at the end. The theme is time and permanence, and that’s more than clear from various symbols. These range from a watch, a character with Alzheimer’s, and a diary titled “À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu”--plus philoso
Jennifer (aka EM)
Sep 15, 2014 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: julie
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: jo
Shelves: maple-flavoured
ETA: 09/15/14. Have been giving this some more thought and revising my rating accordingly.

Seven Things I Loved

1) Nao’s voice.
2) The gradual deepening and darkening of Nao's storyline (so sad) corresponding with the heightening of her satirical, ironic tone.
3) Nao's sense of humour.
4) The ‘time’ theme – all its permutations and symbolism.
5) How Ozeki jam-packs it full of a bunch of end-of-world themes (individual, collective): 9/11, the Japanese tsunami/reactor meltdown, WWII, (view spoiler)
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Ruth Ozeki (born in New Haven, Connecticut) is a Japanese American novelist. She is the daughter of anthropologist Floyd Lounsbury.

Ozeki published her debut novel, My Year of Meats, in 1998. She followed up with All Over Creation in 2003. Her new novel, A Tale for the Time Being, will be published on March 12, 2013.

She is married to Canadian land artist Oliver Kellhammer, and the couple divides t
More about Ruth Ozeki...

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“Sometimes when she told stories about the past her eyes would get teary from all the memories she had, but they weren't tears. She wasn't crying. They were just the memories, leaking out.” 178 likes
“Am I crazy?" she asked. "I feel like I am sometimes."
"Maybe," he said, rubbing her forehead. "But don't worry about it. You need to be a little bit crazy. Crazy is the price you pay for having an imagination. It's your superpower. Tapping into the dream. It's a good thing not a bad thing.”
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