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

a tale for the time beingLast month my book club read and discussed Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being along with the UW Go Big Read, an annual event that “has thousands of people reading, talking and sharing their reactions and opinions.” This is our third year reading along with the Go Big Read and I think I can speak for my book club when I say it’s been our favorite one so far. In fact, for the first time in book club history, everyone at the meeting LOVED the book unanimously. This has never happened guys. It’s kind of a big deal.

We opened off our discussion of the book with the simple question, “What, in your mind, is a time being?” And everyone had a different opinion. According to sixteen year old Nao, one of the book’s two narrators:

“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.”

This was a book that took a long time to savor. I had a really hard time reading it quickly and I wasn’t alone. A few of us commented on the format of the book being part of the “problem” – told from two points of view, I found that after reading one section each from both narrators, I wanted to put the book down and let the story marinate in my mind for awhile before continuing. Every night. It wasn’t until the day of book club when I had about half the book to go that I realized I was going to have to step it up – so I spent the entire day reading. I cancelled plans, sat on the couch and ignored the world from 7am until about 4pm when I finally, finally finished. And wow.

I LOVED this book. How do I even describe it? Here’s what has to say about it:

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.

Book club found us discussing all sorts of different facets of the book – we talked about philosophy, life, death, teenage bullying, suicide, internet privacy, ghosts, trying to fit into a new place after moving, marriage, parenting, prostitution, parallel universes, ethics and on and on and on. This is a book that makes you think and then makes you think harder and then makes you think that maybe you don’t know very much after all.

It’s a sort of story within a story within a story that seems to be constantly changing the rules and making you question what you thought you understood and believed in. It is gritty and realistic and then fantastical with a supernatural element all in one moment. Ozeki definitely likes to explore the two sides to every thought and every story, every person and every moment.

The truth is I could talk about this book for days and never truly do it justice, never really do more than crack the surface of what is underneath and the only way you can really experience it is to read it for yourself, which I encourage you to do immediately. Seriously, just stop reading this review, go get your hands on a copy and start reading immediately. You won’t regret it.

Basically, it’s brilliant.

My little ninjas: thoughts on karate lessons

karate kids

There is a little karate studio down the street from our house. We pass by it when we go to our favorite pizza place in the same plaza. Seeing the sign, I remember being a kid and taking karate lessons for a short while. Either because money was tight or other reasons not explained to a small, oblivious child, I didn’t take the lessons long and never earned a belt at all.

My husband also took lessons, I’m not sure for how long but we both agreed they were fun. And that was pretty much where the conversation ended for a couple years. Then MM’s best friend started taking classes there and MM was continually bummed when play dates were cut short because of karate classes. I considered our plates full with school and cub scouts and left it at that until a couple weeks ago when the karate studio had a bring a friend day and MM was invited to join his friend. We happened to be free so I figured why not.

karate moves

That day I discovered the town’s best kept secret. This karate studio is amazing. The teacher is FANTASTIC with the kids and works really hard to teach them life skills that they can use all their lives that is age appropriate. He doesn’t just teach kids how to kick or punch – he teaches them about focus and hard work – about how to deal with bullies or “bad people” positively. He encourages self defense but never offense. He’s goofy with the young kids and just stern enough with the older kids to keep them in line.

Point is, I very quickly decided to make it work, deal with a fuller schedule and I signed both kids up for one week of classes at a charity fair they held that weekend. The cost I paid went towards cancer research and it gives me a chance to see if the kids are truly interested before paying for a real membership. So far they are both hooked.

MM is loving the fact that he gets to do this class with his best friend and though he’s pretty unfocused and goofy right now, I think that makes the class all the more useful for him. BB is, well, BB. She tries hard when she wants to and ignores the rules when she doesn’t feel like following them. It’s kind of adorable to watch both of them in class. MM is just in his glory and having a blast. BB has this look of determination and no matter how well she is doing (or not doing) she always has this look like “Yeah, nailed it!” after each move.

her first stripe

Both kids earned a white belt after their first class and BB earned her first stripe last night for being focused (for a four year old) and trying hard. I’m hoping that seeing his little sister earn her first stripe so soon will encourage MM to work even harder so he can earn his.

I have a feeling both kids will be signing up for at least another month of classes.