Of course the new year’s second post would be a book review.
Title: A Tale for the Time Being
Author: Ruth Ozeki
Genre: Historical fiction, magical realism, cultural,
Summary: Excerpt from Goodreads
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.
Edition: Penguin Canada Books Inc., 2013, paperback, 422 pages
Eaten Thru On: January 7, 2015
One of the many aspects of Japan that I loved and still love is its harmonious blend of Eastern and Western culture and practices. Japan opened itself up to Western influences without it completely undermining Japanese traditions and belief systems. This book is immersed in this East meets West and West meets East basis. I also absolutely loved all of the Japanese terms, cultural practices, and traditions that this book was infused with. Be warned, although the writing, especially on Nao’s part, might sound like that of a teenager, the themes and incidents that arises are dark and heavy. Let’s just say I learned quite a bit about Japanese customs surrounding the idea of death and dying and spirituality and religion.
Nao’s story was captivating, heartbreaking and brave. The transitions and rough terrains she had to walk through as her family moved from one country to another is deeply relatable since I went through an uprooting, and several more after that as well. But of course, although I had received very minor bullying in elementary and high school, it is minuscule and incomparable to the horrendous and terrifying experience Nao had to go through.
Ruth’s remorseful and concerned tone was just enough to be irritating. I appreciated her interpretation of Nao’s story but I could have done without it. It felt to me as if the author (coincidentally with the same name) wrote herself in so she could guide the reader on how best to view Nao’s words. However, I like to read partially because I love the freedom to shade the stories in my hues, the unique hues that have been blended and produced by my own experiences and values. This is perhaps why the books are always better than the movie adaptations (at least for me). Film adaptations are a particular person’s reimagining of the book come to life, and since everyone is idiosyncratic, that adaptation will usually not match up to our own vivid interpretations. Not to say one is better than the other, but we tend to favour our own portrayals.
In any case, Ruth’s interjections and the whole fantasy dream sequence at the end is part of the reason for the two missing stars in my rating. In general, I have never read such a strange, almost mythical piece of writing. Entertaining and educational nonetheless, I’m sure I’d understand a lot more and pick up on a lot more symbolic entities if I knew more about Japanese folktales and folklores.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5 crows
Recommend for: anyone curious about Japanese society, culture and customs, and folklore.
Next Target: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerk