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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Patty Pick for 2/11/16 is "A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki

This book by Ruth Ozeki reads between a middle-aged author of Japanese descent who lives on an island on the Alaska-side of Canada named Ruth and Nao, a Japanese teenager who was raised in Sunnyvale, California but is living in Tokyo when she wrote the journal. The journal with a packet of other mementos washed up on Ruth's island and she is captivated by the young girl's life in her own words. The juxapostion of these two main characters is engaging and will keep you involved in the story line. 

As Ruth reads the diary, she tries to find out the time origin of the items included in the package. There is a packet of letters, a watch and the journal, all neatly wrapped up in a Hello Kitty lunchbox. During this same time, she is struggling with writers block in her own life. The elements are harsh on the island and Ruth and her husband, Oliver, face periods of no electricity and the fear that nature can attack at any time. She turns to her neighbors to help her determine how long the packet has been floating in the ocean currents. 

As we read Jao's dairy with Ruth, the harsh realities of her life in Tokyo are slowly revealed. She is being horribly bullied by her Japanese schoolmates and even by the teachers in her new school. At the same time, her father is dealing with depression over the loss of his job in the US and the reality of relying on others to help provide a suitable household for his family. Jao watches her father spiral down at the same time that she 
is experiencing excruciating pain at the expense of her classmates. She handles it 
all with quiet humor but she becomes determined to kill herself and stop the misery. 

Ruth feels responsible for Jao's life after reading the diary and searches to find a way 
to connect with the family and make sure that everyone is okay. In Jao's time, her 
great-grandmother who is a buddist nun comes to Tokyo and takes things into her 
own hands. 

As we read these two struggling lives playing out at the same time, you will be 
cheering for them both to overcome their circumstances and live a better life. 
Reading this book gave me insights into Japanese life and the devastation of the 
tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. More importantly, it gave me a small window into 
the world of Ruth and Jao.