“A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki


Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being is another contender in this year’s Morning News Tournament of Books. Not sure I would have picked up this one, or picked it up so soon, but I fell for it, hard, as I was reading.

It opens with Buddhist passage, “For the Time Being” then launches into the narrative of Nao, pronounced “NOW”, pun intended:


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.

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. As for me, right now I am sitting in a French mid cafe in Akiba Electricity Town, listening to a sad chanson that is playing sometime in your past, which is also my present, writing this and wondering about you, somewhere in my future. And if you’re reading this, then maybe by now you’re wondering about me, too.

Within the novel, these are the first pages of a journal that a character named Ruth finds on the beach of an island in British Columbia. The book alternates between Nao and Ruth, and encompasses realities from past and present, Japan and US and BC, Buddhist nun to middle-school bullies, and more. My fascination with Nao and desire to know what happens mirrors Ruth’s as their stories unfold and overlap. It was an enjoyable read, but also one that left me thinking on such heady topics as Time and Being. This book was a delight for me to read on both the macro and micro levels.

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