Review: A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki


Life is full of stories. Or maybe life is only stories.

Ruth Ozeki’s mind boggling novel, A Tale for the Time Being took me so much longer than usual to get through, but somehow I felt like that was exactly how it was meant to be read. This book drew me in from the very first sentence, and as the story meandered on, I literally could not imagine how it would end or how (or if) Nao’s story would come full circle. But let me start at the beginning…

Hi! 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.

A Tale for the Time Being, is exactly what the title suggests. A tale being told as it unfolds. In the moment (the time being) by Nao, a sixteen year old girl (a time being, get it, NAO/NOW) in Japan. Her diary washes up in a Hello Kitty lunchbox on the shore of a beach in Canada, where it is found by a woman named Ruth. Ruth picks up the box and her life is changed forever as Nao’s story becomes like an alternate reality for her, and she becomes determined to find out what happened to her, often losing track of time and her own life as she reads the diary. The story Nao writes was meant to be the story of her great grandmother, Jiko, but ends up being the story of Nao, who recently decided to end her life.

The book alternates between a section of Nao’s diary and Ruth’s reaction to it. In the beginning I found Ruth’s parts a little unnecessary, and found myself looking forward to Nao to take over the story once again. However as the book went on, I came to enjoy Ruth more and more, and she came to play a bigger role in the overall telling of the story than I originally would have imagined. I’ve read reviews that said the opposite, and that as the book went on, Ruth became incredibly whiny, but I feel like she was such a necessary presence.

 The intertwining stories throughout the book are not always easy to read, as every character has their own very real hardships, but the writing and commentary throughout draws you in and makes you feel as if you are in a hazy dream. This is best read slowly and leisurely, so you don’t miss any of the nuances of the story or language.

A Tale for the Time Being is definitely one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and more than likely one I will be recommending to everyone who asks me for something to read. So if you’re looking for a book that will completely suck you in, I can only say for one last time: READ THIS!


  1. I absolutely LOVED this book when I read it earlier this year. Like you, I got REALLY invested in Nao and would get impatient when we had to read Ruth’s part. It’s not that I didn’t like Ruth, per se, but I was just so into Nao’s storyline that it felt like an unnecessary pause. I’ll have to re-read the end to see if my feelings have changed 🙂 I do agree with you that more people need to read this book! I can’t wait for Ozeki to come out with a new one.

    1. I know, I want a sequel or something with Ruth and Nao meeting! I definitely just creeped back to your review and saw that you read My Year of Meats, which I just bought at a book sale last weekend and can’t wait to start!

  2. Reading this makes me want to get a copy now.

    A copy was raffled out in a conference last year. My book club friend won. I wonder if she’ll give the book to me instead so that I can give it justice?

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