A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being

Book - 2013
Average Rating:
Rate this:
""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"--
Publisher: New York :, Viking,, 2013.
ISBN: 9780670026630
Branch Call Number: FICTION Ozeki Ruth 02/2013
Characteristics: 422 pages ;,24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Dec 04, 2020

Terrible! should come with a warning.

Nov 22, 2020

Ruth, a blocked novelist, is walking along the beach of a Canadian Gulf Island when she spots a package, wrapped in plastic and encrusted in barnacles. Taking it home, she opens it and finds: a Hello Kitty Lunch box containing a diary and a bundle of letters written in Japanese, a smaller diary written in French and a WWII era watch. She begins to read the diary and thus we are introduced to remarkable voice of Nao, a teenage girl who plans, in this diary, to tell the story of her great-grandmother. When she is finished writing, she tells 'you', the reader, she will kill herself.

I loved (most of) this novel. Nao, who is neglected by her parents and viciously bullied and humiliated at school, is one of the most interesting characters I've ever had the pleasure of encountering. Despite being a self-described 'victim of torture', Nao tells her story in an engaging, matter-of fact way. We learn about her relationship with her amazing great-grandmother, a 104 year old anarchist, feminist Buddhist nun and through the nun, the history of her family and the enduring scars left by the war, and about how Nao's grandmother teaches Nao to develop her 'superpower' to allow her to endure pain and suffering. I was deeply moved by these sections of the story.

The chapters of the story told in Ruth's POV were a bit didactic and didn't resonate as much. Nonetheless, this book is well worth reading. I know I will be thinking about Nao and her great-grandmother and the message of this story for a long time to come.

mko123 Sep 23, 2020

A bullied teenager in Tokyo, her Buddhist monk grandmother, a suicidal father, the teenager's diary that washes up to shore in Vancouver, B.C. A writer is beach combing in Vancouver and and picks up the diary. She then gets pulled into a story in another place, and another time. Could there be a reason she gets so transfixed by a story a half a world away?. This is a beautiful story of synchronicity, hope and redemption. I loved it.

Sep 12, 2020

This book is so depressing I had to quit reading it. I got halfway through but after bullying, suicide attempts, kamikaze training, depression running through the family, I couldn't do it anymore. I was interested in the Buddhist story because I am one but it was not worth it. I am surprised at the favorable reviews.

SPL_Liz Apr 30, 2020

This was a lovely book! It stayed with me for days after I put it down leaving me unable to start in on another novel. It delivered a complex story with uncomplicated language creating an immersive, character-driven story that included many themes including family, cultural identity, the natural world, quantum physics and our experience of time, as well as more emotional topics like bullying, suicide, natural disasters, and war. I would recommend this read to people who enjoy character-driven stories and are interested in existential questions about the human experience.

Mar 02, 2020

Two separate story lines woven together to make for a very powerful and moving story. This is a very good novel.

SPL_Melanie Dec 30, 2019

A beautiful read, tying together family dynamics, history, environmental concerns, natural disasters, and Buddhist philosophy. Sounds dense, but it's a complex and absorbing story with wonderful characters, which reads very quickly.

multcolib_susannel Dec 18, 2019

Humor and compassion, time-past, present and future, and a ninety-year old Buddhist priest are just a few of the elements in a story that begins with a worn red cover diary that washes up on the beach of British Colombia.

Nov 24, 2019

L. Hertzel

Sep 25, 2019

jenni recommends

View All Comments


Add a Quote
Jan 03, 2017

“..I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you. 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.”

PimaLib_SherrieB Oct 22, 2014

Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader's eye. Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals it's meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.

Jun 26, 2014

From Le temps retrouve (Time Regained) by Marcel Proust, as quoted in A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki:
"In reality, every reader, while he is reading, is the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument, which he offers to the reader to permit him to discern what, without the book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself. The reader's recognition in his own self of what the book says is the proof of its truth."


Add Age Suitability
Jan 03, 2017

mayog thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Summary
Jun 26, 2014

A Canadian writer finds a freezer bag containing a young Japanese girl's diary which might have washed across the Pacific after the tsunami. The chapters go back and forth between the writer and the diary pages, keeping you enthralled and wondering if you will ever know what became of her. Fascinating!


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at My Library

To Top