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A Tale for the Time Being

A Novel
Paperback Book
Penguin Group Canada
December, 2013
In stock now: 
$22.00 CAD
Banyen's Description: 

 In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

Full of Ozeki’s signature humour and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.

“The time being” is an English translation of the Japanese word uji, which is the title of a short piece of writing about time, by the 13th-century Zen master and poet Eihei Dogen. The time being is deep time, as opposed to linear, chronological time. The time being is a kind of eternal present. A time being is also a being who lives in time, who is alive, and who will therefore die

Ruth Ozeki, an American Japanese and a longtime Zen practitioner, evokes the mysteries of time, how layers of time blend together, how time hurries by and slows down. It’s about our time, this big time we are all living in, this time of tsunamis, climate change, species extinction, undeclared war, Internet technology. And it’s about this time right now, this moment of hearing a crow calling on a branch, a moment that’s gone already. It’s about time past, the history we think we know about—World War II, for example—and about memory, and how when we look back and remember, or when we read journals and letters from the past, the layers of time get squashed together in the time being. Everything exists at once. Everything that has happened, or could have happened, all possibilities are present now. 

This book is large and full of heart. It asks the important questions. What does it really mean to be a human being? To be alive and know you’re going to die? How do we understand the cruelty human beings are capable of inflicting on each other? How do we have the courage to keep planting trees, as Oliver does, when the forests are being devastated around us? 

What’s moving is the way Ozeki explores intimate human relationships, and how people manage to love each other in the midst of their suffering. The central relationships of the novel are nuanced, changing, heart-wrenching, and fiercely loving: between Nao and her father, between Nao and her greatgrandmother Jiko, between Jiko and her kamikaze pilot son, and between Ruth and Oliver. Ozeki writes courageously about what is clearly her own nonfictional marriage.

The relationship at the very center of the book is that between Ruth and Nao, who reflect and love each other without ever meeting. They help each other discover themselves as time beings, alive in time. They help each other—and me, too—wake up to the present moment

  (—with help from Susan Moon’s review in Tricycle)

Publisher’s Description: 

On a remote island in the Pacific Northwest, a Hello Kitty lunchbox washes up on the beach. Tucked inside is a collection of curious items, including the diary of a sixteenyear-old Japanese girl named Nao Yasutani. Ruth, who finds the lunchbox, suspects that it is debris from Japans devastating 2011 tsunami. Once Ruth starts to read the diary, she quickly finds herself drawn into the mystery of the young girls fate.

In a manga caf in Tokyos Electric Town, Nao has decided theres only one escape from the loneliness and pain of her life, as shes uprooted from her U.S. home, bullied at school, and watching her parents spiral deeper into disaster. But before she ends it all, she wants to accomplish one thing: to recount the story of her great-grandmother, a 104-year-old Zen Buddhist nun, in the pages of her diary. The diary, Naos only solace, is her cry for help to a reader she can only imagine.
Full of Ozekis signature humour and insight, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.

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