princessofburundi: (books and candle)
[personal profile] princessofburundi
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, 2013, 403 pages, 4.5/5 stars

A Tale for the Time Being, written by Canadian-dwelling American-born Ruth Ozeki, takes place on a remote island in the temperate rainforest of British Columbia, in Tokyo, and in Fukushima Prefecture before the tidal wave and subsequent nuclear meltdown. Ruth, a writer living on the Canadian island (identifiable as Cortes Island) finds amongst the flotsam on the beach a diary, a watch, and some letters inside a plastic bag. Their provenance proves to be Japanese, the diary of Nao, a schoolgirl in Tokyo. The diary tells of Nao's problems with severe bullying, her father's suicide attempts, and her own relationship with her great-grandmother, who is a Zen Buddhist nun living in the Japanese countryside. As Ruth reads the diary, her tale becomes entwined with Nao's, and in a dreamlike fashion, their narratives of both females affect the outcome of the other's story.

I really liked most of the book. It was written in a style that I've never read before: the people on Cortes are Ruth and Oliver; the author's name is Ruth and she is married to a man named Oliver, and they live in Cortes. It was hard to distinguish where memoir and fiction divided. The details of everyday life in Japan and in the Buddhist monastery of Nao's great-grandmother very much interested me, as Japanese culture is so alien to my own and thus my curiosity was piqued.

However, the final sixty pages of the book left me cold. I can tolerate a small amount of magical realism in novels, but it is not my favourite literary device, and without giving away any of the ending, I can say that magical realism took over, much to my irritation. I find it disatisfying; I am one of those people who likes books and movies to have a definite ending, not to leave me guessing what the outcome is. For the most part, though, I found the book intelligent, unique, and riveting, and would not hesitate to recommend it.

Date: 2017-04-12 11:14 pm (UTC)
globetrotter1: (reading)
From: [personal profile] globetrotter1
I met the author at the office a few years; I have yet to read the book, though!

Date: 2017-04-13 12:45 am (UTC)
globetrotter1: (Default)
From: [personal profile] globetrotter1
The events have been canceled, so I won't miss them (well I already miss them!). Still leaving ASAP LOL.

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