A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

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.

A Tale for the Time Being,
Ruth Ozeki's latest book, is a fantasy whose themes mix coming of age,
environmental awareness, social and moral consciousness, and filial
love. The story has two main characters: Nao, a 16-year-old Japanese
girl who lives in Japan and Ruth, a writer of Japanese descent who lives
on an island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. Their lives
become intertwined when Ruth finds Nao's diary along with that of her
uncle - a kamikaze pilot during World War II.

Nao is an
adolescent weighed down by responsibilities. She spent her childhood in
Silicon Valley, where her father was a software designer.  He lost his
job - and hence his visa - before the economic downturn in 2008. After the
family relocated to Tokyo, her father was unable to get a job. Becoming
increasingly depressed, he attempts suicide. He fails but becomes
increasingly remote and agoraphobic. Similarly, Nao mother is
emotionally distant. She keeps long hours at work and copes with her
husband by physically removing herself from the situation. Nao is left
in charge and watches her father with trepidation.

Nao
also endures bullying at school that borders on sadistic. Her body is
riddled with scars. She is both ostracized and tormented. She seeks
solace in a coffee shop in which the waitresses dress up as French
maids. There she writes her diary, addressing the future recipient who
will find it. The imaginary recipient is her only friend. It is not
clear if she tosses the diary into the ocean upon its completion, or if it is
swept up in the devastating tsunami that hits Japan in 2011.

Either
way, Ruth finds it while walking along the beach. Ten years have now
passed since Nao wrote her diary. Yet Ruth feels so drawn into Nao's
story that she becomes distraught over her fate. She forgets the time
difference and resolves to change the girl's fate as well as that of the
father. Ozeki toys with the concept of time and the writer's ability to
create her characters and control their lives. Or do characters assume
lives of their own as the plot unfolds?

A Tale for the Time Being
is an unusual book with sympathetic and quirky characters. Ozeki
blends issues of moral conscience with an original plot. Readers of
Ozeki's previous fiction will welcome this new addition to her oeuvre.

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