Review: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

I haven’t written anything in quite a while, which is quite sad. Unfortunately, I’m in a bit of a book slump with so much homework but I finished reading Dragonfly in Amber, the second book of the Outlander series, and I’m still reading Atonement. So the buddy read didn’t go quite as well as Mariel and I planned it out to but here is the review, a month or so late.


My friends and I saw this book at the LA Times Book Awards Ceremony and Festival and the author as well, and we were all in love with Nao by the first page and wanted to buy the book.

Here’s Mariel’s take on the first 10 chapters:

And her review:


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 a 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.

This book was whimsical, fascinating, and really deep and insightful. Ozeki explored so many themes that sent me in a philosophical tizzy (but in a good way.)  I think it’s the kind of book I’ll be reading over and over again, still discovering new parts of it and provoking super deep contemplation about everything. The pacing was perfect, the characters were moving and quite relatable to, and Japanese setting was captivating. The book trailer did not do it justice.

I loved Nao’s perspective. The writing style is humorous and quirky, sometimes a little blunt in a way that made me raise my eyebrows. But Nao is a teenager, still curious about the world. The descriptions of the Japanese monastery/temple and her urban environment were really enjoyable, since I’ve never been to Japan. Nao’s experiences in bullying were also pretty surprising and eye-opening because stereotypically, Japanese people are very well-known for their politeness and courtesy. However, she is subjected to awful, demeaning jokes by her fellow classmates. Her grandmother is a anarchist/feminist/buddhist nun. She definitely goes on the list for Best Grandmas in Books. The BGB, it has a nice ring to it. In some ways I could relate to her, like her perspective of the world and her experiences of being bullied but in other ways, like some of her darker experiences, I couldn’t imagine a girl her age going through.

Some of my favorite quotes from her are:

“It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they’re all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart.”

I can relate so much that it hurts.

“But don’t worry about it. You need to be a little bit crazy. Crazy is the price you pay for having an imagination. It’s your superpower. Tapping into the dream. It’s a good thing not a bad thing.”

Haruki!!!!!! Yay for the beautiful magic realism and exploring the themes of blurring the lines between dreams and reality. And superpowers, ’cause they’re pretty cool and inspiring.

Ruth perspective was also pretty interesting. It’s fascinating because this sounded a little autobiographical since in the book Ruth’s husband is named Oliver and the author is named Ruth and has a husband named Oliver. Another part of her perspective that was unique was that she was reacting to and experiencing Nao’s diary while I was as well, so I could read her thoughts on it while formulating my own. And I could react to her reactions which is so much inception and mind-bogglingness that I can’t handle. Her perspective is a contrast from Nao’s as she is older, from a different time period (theme: past and present and once again, blurring the lines between them), and is more reserved.

Overall: 5 stars, so please read this book



3 thoughts on “Review: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

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