Written by: Ruth Ozeki
Published by: Viking Press
Published on: March 11, 2013
Provided by the publisher for review through NetGalley
Ruth Ozeki is one of my favourite writers. I like that in some ways we start from a similar base - a conjoining of Canadian & Japanese pop culture and history, but Ozeki finds ways to challenge me and enlighten me. Of course I know that she is not writing just for me, but like all my favourite books it feels like the author really is speaking to me.
I think that is how Ruth, the protagonist in A Tale for the Time Being, feels when she finds the diary of Nao, a Tokyo schoolgirl who is so troubled she is contemplating suicide. The diary holds Nao's thoughts on her life, her meditations on life itself, and her journey to find out what she can and share what she learns about her inspirational Buddhist nun great-grandmother. This story affects her more than one would ever expect.
I don't know if there is anything I can add to what people already know about Ozeki's brilliance. Her voices for Nao, Ruth, and even Jiko are so very distinct and realistic. But there is so much surrealism that abounds- you are never really sure what Nao is saying is really all the truth but there is always some truth in her Proustian memories.
Just as with her previous novels, My Year of Meats and All Over Creation, Ozeki manages to blend the lamentable with the laughable. Her infusion of humour makes the horrible things that occur more manageable. Also just as in her previous novels, Ozeki weaves a tale you don't want to end just so you can keep reading her philosophies and delectable phrases.
Ozeki is a zen Buddhist priest, and although you would expect most of the zen philosphies to come from the mouth of the centenarian Buddhist nun, it was actually what Nao had to say about time and the nature of life and death that resembled Buddhism the most. It's about truly living in the moment, taking in everything, not wasting a precious second. Nao thinks her grandmother is doing that, moving so slowly that she savours every moment she has left alive and extending her earthly experience. This is a message I want to take from this book into my life everyday.
This is the thirty-sixth book I have reviewed for the Sixth Canadian Book Challenge.