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A Tale for the Time Being

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3.99  ·  Rating details ·  66,609 Ratings  ·  9,056 Reviews
Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you.

On a remote island in the Pacific Northwest, a Hello Kitty lunchbox washes up on the beach. Tucked inside is the diary of a sixteen-year-old Japanese girl names Nao Yasutani. Ruth--a writer who finds the lunchbox--suspects that it is debris from Japan
...more
Paperback, 422 pages
Published December 31st 2013 by Penguin Books (first published March 11th 2013)
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The Moon Rabbit Grey 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: http://www.oliverk.org/art-projects/l...)(less)

Community Reviews

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Zaphoddent
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
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Teresa
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Brina
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Julie Christine
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
...more
Scarlet
3.5

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
...more
Elyse
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 as winning also! If you've not read this story and have wanted to --or want to check it out --have a Kindle -- the price is fantastic. I like this book so much --that after I read it on Netgalley -- I went and bought a physical copy. (which I still own)


BRILLIANT --
...more
Debbie
Sep 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Samadrita
3.5/5

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 -
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Pam
Mar 12, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Michael
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
Whitney Atkinson
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Diane
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
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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
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Margitte
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
...more
Aaron T.
May 29, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Aubrey
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
...more
Eve
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014, 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 exp
...more
jo
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
Wan
Here are a few trigger warning topics to be aware of in this book (stop reading if you don't want to know):

-Bullying/Hazing
-Suicide
-Depression
-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
...more
Mariah
I read this for the Goodreads' Book Club Diversity in All Forms! If you would like to join the discussion here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

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
...more
Sue
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
...more
Amanda
Jul 01, 2013 rated it liked it
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
...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
Vonia
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.").
...more
Iris
Mar 04, 2014 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!
Melanie
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Connie
"A Tale for the Time Being" was one of my favorite reads from 2013, and I enjoyed rereading this unusual multilayered novel. While walking on an island beach in British Columbia, Ruth found a barnacle-encrusted plastic bag containing a Hello Kitty lunchbox with a book, a bunch of letters, and a watch inside. She and her husband theorized that it might have been caught up in the ocean currents traveling from Japan after the 2011 tsunami.

The book is a copy of Proust's "A la Recherche du Temps Perd
...more
BrokenTune
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
Lou
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Diversity in All ...: A Tale for the Time Being (December 2017) 16 154 Mar 01, 2018 04:10AM  
Parhamer Book Club: November: A Tale for the Time Being 1 4 Nov 21, 2017 11:15AM  
Group Reads - Jen...: Part I 12 29 Oct 03, 2017 03:46PM  
Group Reads - Jen...: Book Information 1 20 Aug 07, 2017 05:20PM  
500 Great Books B...: A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki - Aubrey 5 53 Apr 19, 2017 05:20AM  
Around the Year i...: A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki 6 61 Mar 04, 2017 04:56PM  
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2,379 followers
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
...more
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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.” 235 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.”
191 likes
More quotes…