Andrew's Reviews > A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
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's review
Jul 16, 2014

really liked it

A middle-aged, Japanese North American woman living in Canadian Pacific Northwest discovers a ziploc bag containing a teenage Japanese girl's diary, among other things. The book alternates between the diary and the narrative of the reader's life as she becomes more and more consumed by the Japanese diarist (named Nao), whether she was a victim of the tsunami, whether she's still alive.

Although Nao's writing irritated me at first, I gradually realized that's because it's such an accurate portrayal of a teenage girl's voice, especially of one who grew up in the United States, as Nao did before moving back to Japan. Her story turns out to be fascinating (and heartbreaking). Having just read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I heard some of May Kasahara in Nao's voice.

The woman who finds the diary is named Ruth, like the author, so one imagines that Ruth's side of the book is the author describing what she would do if she found Nao's diary. Ruth (the character) is an academic, so the book is full of footnotes and there are six appendices at the end (I haven't read them all yet). A few of the appendices are about quantum mechanics, so one wonders which Ruth wrote the appendices.

I found the relationship between Ruth and her husband a little tiresome. Although her husband is a scientist and she is not, there's a bit too much mansplaining coming from him.

I liked the duality of Nao's diary and Ruth's story. Each time the storylines switched, it was a delight to be returning to whichever one was starting again.

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Reading Progress

July 16, 2014 – Shelved
July 16, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
July 20, 2014 – Started Reading
July 21, 2014 –
page 24
5.69% "I find it too unromantic when a novel mentions mobile devices by brand."
July 24, 2014 –
page 75
17.77% "Second book in a row in which a Japanese woman enjoys staring at jellyfish."
August 27, 2014 –
page 236
55.92% ""Basically, when a cat offers you his butt to scratch you have to do it and not mind the rest of the package.""
September 3, 2014 –
page 332
78.67% "Uncanny similarities between this book and Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: in both books a) a cat runs away, b) a woman likes looking at jellyfish, c) unspeakable acts of torture and murder are described (in both books by and against the same groups), and d) a single bird has a profound effect on people's lives."
September 9, 2014 –
page 386
91.47% ""...and when I run out of things I love, I move on to the things I don't hate too much, and sometimes I even discover that I can love the things I think I hate.""
September 9, 2014 – Finished Reading

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