Summing up Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for a Time Being is going to be hard but here goes…
Maybe it was the gorgeous weather outside but I spent a lot of time reading this one. I wanted to savour every word because Ozeki’s writing isn’t just beautiful, it’s quirky and it throws you through loops when you least expect it.
A Tale for a Time Being starts off with Ruth, a British Columbian islander, finding a washed up diary and wristwatch on the beach. She speculates that it could have been debris washed away by the tsunami. Ruth wasn’t always from the islands — at least not these ones. She was once a writer from New York but she’d long been suffering from writer’s block.
The novel alternates between Ruth and the diary which was written by a young girl in Japan named Nao. The girl writes about being tormented for being an outsider and about her Buddhist nun grandmother. I found myself trying to read ahead during Ruth’s chapters to know what Nao does next.
Ruth’s world is all cats, forests and freethinking island residents while Nao’s world is skyscrapers, suicide and really scary schoolgirls. Ruth’s chapters seem typical of Canadian literature until things get really strange towards the end. That trippy time traveling stuff had me scratching my head.
It’s hard for me to compare A Tale for a Time Being to another book because I’ve never read anything quite like it. I especially admire Ozeki’s ability to capture Nao’s frustration and her sense of curiosity as a teenager.
A Tale for a Time Being truly is a trip between time and space but reminds us that we spend so much time chasing Now, we forget that it’s so no so different from Then.