A Tale for the Time Being

Ruth Ozeki
A Tale for the Time Being Cover

A Tale for the Time Being


Tale for the Time Being is a wonderfully incredible story. Nao, a girl raised in California returns to Japan as a teenager with her native parents. She suffers the isolation of being an outsider, the despair of her dysfunctional parents, and the torments of school life. Nao deals with a cruel existence she cannot escape or fix. Her father is despondent from his failures in life. Her mother is distant and copes poorly with their circumstances.

In this setting, Nao writes to us in her diary, not only to us, but to Ruth, a woman who finds the diary and other things sealed in a bag on the shore of an island in British Columbia. Ruth attempts to understand her discovery. The mystery of Nao's life and her fate are revealed by Ruth's investigation in a seemingly impossible, implausible quest separated by time and distance.

This story unfolds many layers of personal, familial and social history through the time of Nao's great-grandmother, Jiko. When Nao meets her, Jiko is a 104 year-old Zen Buddhist nun. Through Nao and Ruth, we learn about ambition, struggle, understanding, hatred, spiritual understanding, cruelty, conscience and peace.

To place this book in the category of fantasy is problematical, for the discussions about quantum physics I could easily put it in science-fiction. In any case the genre is not important because the story itself drew me into a world, contemplatively real and human.

When I give a book the highest rating, it means that I will gladly read it again savoring the story and characters, and examining the ideas, allusions and images.

My thanks to the author, Ruth Ozeki, for sharing her insights.