If you want to read a unique novel, and one that infuses the past and the present within the pages, then you might enjoy A Tale For The Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki.
The past is a strong component of the story line, beginning with Ruth, who finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox with artifacts inside it. She contemplates on the contents, and the lunchbox, and feels it might be debris from the horrific March 2011 tsunami in Japan.
Moving backwards in time, the story incorporates Nao-a sixteen year old girl living in Tokyo. She has endured much at the hands of her classmates, and is in a constant state of being bullied. She is different, and wise to the ways of the west, as far as modern lifestyles go. She has lived in California, is comfortable in her skin, there, and misses the defining cultural differences. She feels out of place in Tokyo, like an outsider.
Nao has begun writing a diary in order to document her great grandmother’s more than one hundred-years of life. Her great grandmother is a Buddhist nun.
Within alternating chapters, Ruth tries to understand what is written within the diaries pages. She gets help from people she knows. And, within that train of thought, she is taken back in time to eras of the past.
The past is filled with myths and legends, yet some of those myths and legends speak wisely of the human condition. Those very myths and legends are also components of cultural understanding and ideals relating to current times.
Due to the fact that Nao is sixteen, her writings tend to ramble. She is a teenager after all, and her mindset often jumps from one extreme to another. It is what it is.
I found the story to be enjoyable, although some of scenarios had me laughing at the believability. Nao’s great grandmother’s actions were not always credible or believable to me, considering her age, the time period, and other factors. I also feel that the great grandmother’s story could have been shortened. Her tale, in my opinion, would have been concise, and more complete with a stronger and more efficient foundation.
There were humorous parts within the pages, and also dismal and hard-toned aspects to contend with. Through use of past and present, myth and legend, Ozeki manages to weave a tale that is filled with humanness, humanness in all of its glories and flaws.
I read this book for a book club. I probably would not have chosen it to read, on my own. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, overall.
A Tale For The Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki, is a book that explores the meaning of eternity, the meaning of life, and the connections we all share in the scheme of things. If that is what you are looking for in a read, then this would be a book for you!
Sorry for the update. I had to make a correction.