A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki: The diary of a young Japanese girl washes up on the beach in Vancouver and into the hands of a woman of Japanese descent who may or may not be the author of this very novel. The story alternates between Nao’s diary and Ruth’s experiences reading it, complete with footnotes explaining little bits of Japanese language and culture used by Nao. Nao’s unflinching description of her life – from the horrific bullying by her classmates to her father’s suicide attempts – can be hard to take at times, but her clearly affectionate descriptions of her great-grandmother and her quest for meaning make her quite sympathetic. I was especially interested to learn about some of the traditional rituals practiced by Buddhist nuns. The ending left me a bit cold, since I hadn’t expected the story to turn all magical realism on me, but otherwise I really enjoyed it. I guess my issue was that the story leading up to that point felt so literal that it almost felt autobiographical, so the dream sequences and stuff caught me off guard. Sure, I would have liked a little bit more closure (Jiko’s life story, anybody?), but maybe there’s a sequel in store eventually. Even if not, this was still a really interesting novel. I may have to look up some more titles by Ozeki.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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