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Publisher's Summary

Winner: The Kitschies - Red Tentacle novel award 2013
"Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you."
Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery. In a small cafe in Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyber-bullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place - and voice - through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.
Weaving across continents and decades, and exploring the relationship between reader and writer, fact and fiction, A Tale for the Time Being is an extraordinary novel about our shared humanity and the search for home.
©2013 Ruth Ozeki (P)2013 Canongate Books Ltd
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Critic Reviews

"Bewitching, intelligent, and heartbreaking... Nao is an inspired narrator and her quest to tell her great grandmother's story, to connect with her past and with the larger world, is both aching and true. Ozeki is one of my favorite novelists and here she is at her absolute best." (Junot Diaz)
"A Tale for the Time Being is a timeless story. Ruth Ozeki beautifully renders not only the devastation of the collision between man and the natural world, but also the often miraculous results of it. She is a deeply intelligent and humane writer who offers her insights with a grace that beguiles. I truly love this novel." (Alice Sebold)
"Ingenious and touching, A Tale for the Time Being is also highly readable. And interesting: the contrast of cultures is especially well done." (Philip Pullman)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Rochelle on 10-19-13

Being Now

“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.”

This book is a beautiful concept under a masterful narrative. The 2 narrating characters (not the reader) lives touch in a meaningful way, although they will never meet.

An American novelist, Ruth, finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the beach of the island she lives on in Canada. It contains the diary of Nao (a bullied teenager in Japan), some letters and a watch. A lot of the story is the diary, where Nao reveals the secrets she is sharing with no-one else.

The other half of the book is Ruth's attempt to to find out more about Nao and her family. Nao appears to be in danger. While Ruth & her husband wonder whether the lunchbox might have washed across from Japan in the drift following the 2011 tsunami, it's also clear that the Nao's bullying & her father's attempted suicide is leading her to seriously contemplate her own suicide.

Buddhism, western philosophy & environmentalism are some of the themes that flow throughout this beautiful creation, but most of all it is about being now. It is this that makes this book something you want to read in one sitting. And what makes you want it never to end.

Booker short listed, this is an exceptional piece. Get it, you will love it. It has found it's place among my all time favourites & I am sure it will be the same for many other readers.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

By Robyn on 05-30-13

One of the best books ever

This is the first review that I've felt compelled to write. If you listen to one book this year - make it this one!

I am amazed that this book does not have hundreds of reviews of praise. I kept thinking that the reader seemed to have such a deep insight into the characters - it was only when I listened to part 3 did I realise that it was read by Ruth Ozeki herself. It definitely adds another layer to experience.

I loved her Year of Meat - this book is even better. As before Ruth Ozeki combines fact with fiction making it more than simply a story. Listen to this book - or read this book. Or even better do both - you won't be disappointed.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Miss daisy on 10-28-15


Wow! Just finished this wonderful book. Recommended to me after enjoying titles by Haruki Murikami. I know feel inspired to read up on quantum mechanics; French literature; Japanese history & sociology, and modern maritime anomalies. Thank you Ruth for a most enjoyable journey; thank you for the time being.

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9 of 10 people found this review helpful

By Andy on 11-24-13

A bit of a struggle

The story follows Ruth's familiar formula contrasting and comparing Japan and USA. There are some interesting story lines but it does drag and she does tend to struggle to write characters you can have real sympathy with.

The central idea of a character who is an author remarkably like Ruth struggling with writers block and finding a story which mystically writes itself, is a bit literature will eat itself. The strong Buddist overtones are interesting and you can't fault her inventiveness. Just the pacing of the story that sometimes drags.
One big positive is Ruth's reading I think she does a great job of reading the book and the author doing so always give an interesting perspective. She talks about the audio book process in a nice little foot note.
If you have not done so already check out her fantastic "My year of Meats"

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Roderic on 05-21-16

Compelling once you get into it

I was uncertain about this book when I started listening to it. I have not encountered Ruth Ozeki at all. The writing style is in some sense "delicate", perhaps befitting the Buddhist aspects of its content.

Overall, a very interesting and compelling book, giving an insight to aspects of modern Japanese culture and Buddhist practice.

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By Ada on 01-30-16


This book was fantastic. Ruth did an amazing job of portraying the characters during her narration. A must buy!

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