A Tale for the Time Being

This is quite the book! A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki will blow your little mind. It’s is very original. Not like anything I’ve ever read before. It’s fiction, with footnotes on some pages that translate Japanese words or expressions into English. It has appendices that explain various things mentioned in the story in detail. In Japan, time is running out for young Nao Yasutani. She wants to record the story of her great-grandmother Jiko who, at 104 years old, has been an anarchist, feminist, novelist and Zen Buddist nun. This diary that Nao (pronounced Now) writes somehow ends up inside a Hello Kitty lunchbox, along with a few other interesting artifacts, washed up on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest of Canada. When Ruth discovers this strange package while walking along the beach, she brings it home and quickly thinks it could quite possibly be debris from the 2011 tsunami. The more she reads of Nao’s diary, the more involved she becomes in trying to discover the meaning of the strange contents, and whether or not Nao survived this catastrophic event. Believe me, you will be shocked by what you read, educated (who knew Japanese crows could be so fascinating!), filled with laughter & horror (you think we have a problem with bullying in our schools!!), “enlightened” (there’s even a page telling you how to meditate – remember Jiko is a Buddist nun) and often stop and think about what you just read (the parrallel between the flow & containment of water at the Fukushima nuclear plant with the flow & containment of  information in our high-tech world is brilliant). Oseki is an amazing writer, but be forewarned, at times the descriptions are difficult to read. And some of it is pretty heavy to digest. I guess I’m slow on the take because I was almost half way through the book before realizing that Ruth, one of the characters in the book, has the same name as the author, they’re both writers, AND they both have a partner named Oliver. (I always read the “Acknowledgements”.) Fact turned into fiction, in tiny bits maybe? It made me wonder how much of the British Columbia part was based, even slightly, on their lives.  When I picked up the book I wasn’t totally sure it was my “type” but I decided to give it a go anyway. Now I can’t say enough good things about it. Somehow it has flown under the radar screen, and I’m not sure why. It deserved WAY more praise and publicity than it’s been getting. Buy the book and spread the word. Tweet… skype… blog… facebook… do whatever it is you do and get the word out!!

If you want to see something beautiful go to http://www.ruthozeki.com/ and play the little video she provides as a backdrop to her book. It is breathtaking. And read about what the British publishers have managed to do with their version of this book. I really want to get my hands on one of theirs now.

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