Favorite Books of the 2010s: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

This is a series of reviews of my favorite books published between 2010 and 2019.


A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (2013)

A writer living on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia finds a package washed ashore from Japan containing a diary and becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to the teenage girl who wrote it.

This was an absorbing, multilayered story, and I absolutely loved it. The settings were so vividly drawn that they enchanted me: a remote Canadian island frequently cut off by storms; the very strange Akiba district of Tokyo with its French-style cafes; a remote Buddhist monastery. Yet even more captivating was puzzling over whether the events being related were what was actually happening. The main character, Ruth, seems a stand-in for the author herself, but how much of the living author is actually part of the character? Was Naoko, the Japanese girl, killed in the tsunami of 2011, or did she survive? Is her diary even real or is it fictional? And if it is fictional, who is its real writer? Perhaps it’s all true, all at once. Yes, quantum theory and the multiverse does come into this, which I love, if the author can pull it off. Ozeki does pull it off splendidly–at least for me she did. This is my favorite kind of story, one that plays with reality and the conceits of fiction in new and risky ways, capturing my imagination and keeping me pondering long after I’ve closed the book.

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