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A Tale for the Time Being

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  95,689 ratings  ·  11,848 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, 432 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Viking (first published March 11th 2013)
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Hfalight 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)
Jure Hi, if I may chime in. From what I gathered, what the novel is attempting to do at this point is to question who is the writer and reader of the journ…moreHi, if I may chime in. From what I gathered, what the novel is attempting to do at this point is to question who is the writer and reader of the journal and the novel itself. It is quite clear that Ruth (the character) is supposed to be the same person as the author, and the entire novel can be seen (and is usually understood) as her commentary on Nao's journal. The catch here is, Ruth Ozeki (the author) wrote both Ruth (the character's) parts and Nao's journal. If we look at the novel through this lens, then the missing pages of the journal, which then reappear, are basically Ruth's thoughts as she is writing the journal, and Nao is just a fictional character. This is of course just one of the interpretations and the novel suggests (through the analogy with Schrodinger's cat), that two things can happen at the same time and coexist at the same time (just as the cat is both dead and alive in the box). All this is quite mind-boggling but I hope I'm making any sense. The idea is therefore this 'metafiction' and converging of realities, in which we question who Ruth as the author, Ruth as the character, and Nao really are. In fact, they all might be the same person, or, as the quantum theory would have it, just three (possible) realities existing at the same time. For as much as we know, Nao might be Ruth if she grew up in Japan. - It's just a thought and a possible interpretation, but this is precisely what is so amazing about this novel. :)(less)

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Apr 02, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whimsical, poignant, depressing, and hopeful. A lovely little story with great lyrical writing. I enjoyed Nao's unique voice, her strong personality, and the way she interprets the world and time around her. I think the other POV (Ruth) dragged the book since she didn’t have much of a story—it’s really Nao who is the most compelling. ...more
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Apr 30, 2013 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
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asian-american, japan
Ruth Ozeki is an award winning film maker and novelist. A Tale for the Time Being is her third and most ambitious novel and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer and Man Booker awards. In this 2013 autobiographical novel, Ozeki details how a woman named Ruth finds a diary, letters, and watch belonging to a teenaged girl named Naoka sealed inside a ziplock bag. These items most likely traveled to Canada from Japan following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. A novelist looking for a good story, Ruth ...more
Elyse  Walters
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Update... this is $1.99 again today as a kindle download. It’s still one of my favorite books. It came out the year that “The Goldfinch” won the Pulitzer Prize.
They were both my two top favorites of the year. Great day to pick up the ebook if you’ve not read it yet!

Update: Wow!!!!!!!! $1.99 Kindle special of 'this' book is a GREAT DEAL!!!! "A Tale for The Time Being" came out the same year that "The Goldfinch" won The Pulitzer Prize. For me ---it was a toss up --as I felt this book was as good

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
Sep 27, 2014 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
Feb 11, 2021 rated it liked it
reading this was such an up and down experience for me, which really makes me sad. there were moments i was really into this, but then there were times when i just wanted to quit altogether.

the parts that are good are really good, like 4-5 stars worthy. i loved the look at japanese culture, i appreciated how light is shed on difficult topics such as war and mental health, the themes have depth throughout, and the narrative structure in engaging.

but the parts that are bad completely ruin the st

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 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, ya
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
Jan 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, booker, japan
This was the first book I listened through Playster* and it was a good choice. While I gave the book 3*, the audio was very well done. It is narrated by the author and she does a wonderful job.

One of my plans for this year is to read more from the books I added to my TBR at the beggining and this one was among the first, on my shelves from Jan 2014. One of those books I really wanted to read but never got to do it.

A tale for the Time Being is not an easy book to digest. It covers difficult the
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books
‘A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.’ - Ruth Ozeki, A Tale For The Time Being

A Tale For The Time Being is a deceptively simple title. I took it at face value and considered that I would be entertained by a story just for now, perhaps for a little while. As it turned out, the title has a totally different meaning. This tale is an unusual ‘message in a bottle’ type of story that reaches magically across time to
J.L.   Sutton
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
“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.”

Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being begins with an awkward plea from 16-year-old Nao simply to be heard. To make a single connection with another human being. Living in Tokyo, Nao writes both about her gre
Whitney Atkinson
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
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.
Wonderful tale of a woman writer in a remote coastal village in British Columbia, Ruth, whose writer’s block gets extended when she starts reading the journals of a Japanese girl, Nao, which washes up on the shore in a waterproof box. Ruth becomes totally attuned to Nao’s vivid writing about her life in Tokyo after a childhood in Silicon Valley, her resilience in the face of extreme bullying at school, her concerns for her unemployed and suicidally depressed father, and her enchantment with her ...more
Andrew Smith
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A plastic bag washes up on a beach, it contains a Hello Kitty lunchbox and inside are some letters, a diary and a watch. The beach is on an island off the coast of British Columbia and the bag is found by Ruth, a local writer (it’s funny how so many novels feature writers). Ruth discovers that the diary is written by a girl named Nao and it tells the story of her life in America and then in Japan. It’s a somewhat harrowing tale. In California, Nao’s father was, for a while, a Silicon Valley hots ...more
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a fascinating novel this was! I enjoyed the alternate timelines and the two female narrators, Nao and Ruth. Nao is in Japan and is writing in her journal, and Ruth later finds the journal and reads it, without knowing what happened to Nao. It's an intriguing and emotional story, and it made for a good book club discussion. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes
"Life is fleeting. Don't waste a single moment of your precious life. Wake up now! And now! And now!"

"Print is predictable and impersonal, conv
Aaron T.
May 29, 2013 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
Book Riot Community
Painful Honesty Time: I begged for this book based on the cover. A friend laid out a bunch of books on her bed and snapped a photo and I knew I had to borrow it the minute I saw it. It was like looking at a roll of LifeSavers perfectly welded together under the sun, but with art in every stripe.

It was also an excellent read. Imaginative, funny, soulful, creative. The novel switches between the perspectives of two characters: sixteen-year-old Nao and Ruth, a struggling novelist. Through both char
I loved this books for so many different reasons.

The Japanese Culture, from their traditions to their philosophies on life to family values to folklore to deep familial traditions has always intrigued me. Psychology; a young suicidal girl's tenacity to tell the story of the grandmother she loves. Time, space, relativity with quantum physics. Buddhism philosophies to live life for the moment (Because, "... memories are time beings... for a while they are beautiful, and then they fade and die.").
This is a complex book, combining autobiography with fantasy, history and fiction.

Ruth Ozeki is the protagonist and the tale starts where she finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox which contained a faded-red English diary, a bundle of handwritten Japanese letters and a wrist watch of a sixteen year old girl in a plastic bag on Jap Ranch beach in the Desolation Sound near British Columbia.

Actually, the cover of the book was that of À La Cherche Du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust. To Ruth's utter shock and
Mar 13, 2013 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
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
Mariah Roze
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this for the Goodreads' Book Club Diversity in All Forms! If you would like to join the discussion here is the link:

I would rate this book 4.5 stars, because at the end it seemed really fictional. But the rest was really enjoyable. I lived in Japan for the summer of 2014 and my best friend there was named Nao, just like the main character in this book. This book brought back some really great and painful memories, so I appreciated the at a huge lev
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
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"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 e
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
Sixteen-year-old Nao has endured the bullying of her schoolmates for years, but when one teacher joins in, the bullying escalates even more. She has no real friends since moving to Tokyo after growing up in Sunnyvale, California, and life in Tokyo bears no resemblance to her happy childhood. Her father is unable to regain the success in employment he had in Sunnyvale, prior to the bust, along with the associated financial benefits. After his unsuccessful suicide attempt his relationship ...more
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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, was published on March 12, 2013.

She is married to Canadian land artist Oliver Kellhammer, and the couple divides their

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Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
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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.” 275 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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