August 1st 2017
“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.”
― Ruth Ozeki,
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is by far one of the most stimulating, witty, emotional, and culturally rich books I have taken the time to read in my life. I have been meaning to take the time and write something truly wonderful about this book, but I think a simple review is good for starters.
Overview: A Tale for the Time Being is an interesting novels because it tells two parallel story lines that intersect to create a single story filled with struggle, humor, mystery, growth, and cultural appreciation. The story begins with the author finding a bag on the shore by her home containing various objects, one including a diary written by a 16 year old girl living in Japan in 2011 around the time of the tsunami. The diary is filled with experiences that the girl, Nao, was going through after moving back to Japan from her home in California where her father had previously worked. She had been raised a Japanese American girl until the dot com bubble popped, leaving her dad unemployed and her family forced to move back to their home country. There, she discovers a lot of things about herself, her family, and her own mortality which she writes about in her diary. She also discusses many things about her family history that leaves Ruth with many questions and sends her on a search for answers wherever she can find them.
There is so much more to the whole story, but I feel like they are things that are best to be discovered by the reader as they go along through the story. I had gone into this novel with no expectations because I never actually heard of the novel prior to buying it. I just happened to be in a local book shop and stumbled upon it. With all that said, I was not at all disappointed.
I really loved the contrast between Nao’s world and Ruth’s world and how Ruth, in her writing, managed to make small connections between the two worlds to make them feel as though they are existing on the same and different planes simultaneously. I also found it interesting and immersive to see Ruth write herself into the story despite it being a fiction story. The use of herself as a character and her building the whole world around her is so interesting and made me feel as though I was living in the world where this story actually happened.
The characters were also incredibly well developed. Even characters who only made mere cameos were described in such detail that you could literally picture their life in front of you. I honestly didn’t find any of the characters to be lacking depth which is really refreshing to find in a novel.
On top of all that, Ruth used a lot of external sources to make the world come even more to life. She referenced real videos, names of real people, slang from Japan, and tons of references to fill out the world to make it fill incredibly lived in.
If I could name one thing I didn’t love about the book is that I felt like the end left something to be desired and sort of left it on a cliff hanger. However, I honestly think it is better off that way. I am just the kind of person who wants to know all of the answers, but I think Ruth’s choice to keep the ending more ambiguous and up to your interpretation is more realistic than just giving it all away.
So, overall, I recommend this book to anyone who has felt uninspired by books lately because it honestly restored my faith in good literature. Also, disclaimer, this whole post is my opinion so if you hate the book then…sorry, I still think it is wonderful.