A Tale for the Time Being: A Novel
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A brilliant, unforgettable novel from bestselling author Ruth Ozeki—shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award
“A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”
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 first 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 humor 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 brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.
darkened the sky with such heavy striation that, were it not for the tiny flecks of whitecaps kicked up by the wind and adding texture to the water, she would have been unable to trace the line between dark sky and dark sea. The waves looked so small from where she sat on the couch. Hard to imagine. From up close, they would look much bigger. Hard to miss. He flew into a wave, she thought. The gusty wind battered the house, making the old wood beams creak. Outside, the trees groaned and swayed.
eye. One minute the island was there, its presence marked by clusters of tiny glinting lights, and the next instant it was gone, plunged into the darkness of maelstrom and sea. At least that’s how it must have looked from above. Over the next couple of hours, the wind continued its assault on the clearing in the tall trees. The little house that usually blazed far into the night was now discernible only by the insipid glow that emanated from the small square bedroom window. 2. “. . . this is
minute I swear she was about to take her last breath, and the next minute she’s sitting up in bed with a brush in her hand. She kept her eyes closed while Muji got everything ready, placing a clean white sheet of rice paper on the desk in front of her and then carefully grinding the ink against the inkstone. When she was done, she replaced the ink stick in its holder and bowed. “Hai, Sensei. Dozo . . .”154 And then Jiko opened her eyes. She dipped her brush in the thick black ink, pressing and
only a couple of blocks away, but normally I refuse to go buy cigarettes for him because of all the ways you can commit suicide, smoking has to be the stupidest and also the most expensive. I mean, why make a lot of rich tobacco companies even richer off of killing you, right? But this time his disgusting habit gave me the perfect excuse, and he was grateful, and he gave me a little extra money to buy myself a soda. I put on my running shoes instead of the plastic slippers we usually wear for
have now advanced and become his favorite, he invites me to be the oni, while the others circle around and sing “Kagome Kagome.” Do you remember that song, Mother? It is a pretty song about a trapped bird in a bamboo cage. Another game he likes is “bush warbler crossing the valley,” which entails hopping over every bed and stopping now and then to chirp the bush warbler’s song, ho-ho-ke-kyo! Sometimes, too, we play the train game, or the heavy bomber game. His games don’t finish until the final