A Tale for the Time Being
Gosh, it’s taken me weeks to write this review. There are so many things to consider!
My original draft was long and analytic – it had to go. Ozeki weaves so many threads together, pulling them back apart felt destructive.
I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying A Tale for the Time Being, despite all the hype. An intriguing concept: Ruth, living on an island off the Pacific coast of British Columbia, discovers the diary of a 16-year-old Japanese girl that likely drifted her way 2 years after the tsunami. We shift between Ruth, a struggling, aging writer, and Nao, lonely, bullied, and suicidal.
It took me a while to get into, about 100 pages before the characters started rounding out and I felt compelled by their stories. Once I stopped looking at everything too closely and stepped back to just appreciate the whole, it became much clearer. I’d love to see how Ozeki outlined this, it must have been a massive headache to sort out.
The themes Ozeki introduces emphasize the contrasts between the East and West. Views on the passage of time, the honor (or lack thereof) in suicide, importance of ancestry, bullying, and on and on. Again, pulling it apart would just unravel the masterpiece.
This has been a very vague review, but I don’t want to give anything away. We discussed this in my book group for a long while – an enlightening discussion. The more we talked, the more we saw. Ultimately A Tale for the Time Being will make you question your view of time. You’ll still be thinking about it weeks later, unsure of what you believe but certain that it’s changed a bit, and that’s a great feeling. That’s what a book is supposed to.