Ever since I first read “A Wrinkle in Time” as a young girl, I’ve been entranced by the idea of time travel. That fantastic science fiction novel by Madeleine L’Engle was the first of many excursions for me into the realms of what-if worlds and parallel realities. The curiouser world of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” H.G. Wells’ ground-breaking novella, “The Time Machine”, and “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell, have all bent time in ways that beg for a letting go of what we think we know for a wider lens of what if?
Ruth Ozeki‘s new novel, “A Tale for the Time Being“, is a brilliant modern time journey, told across a landscape of ocean waves, quantum physics, Zen monasteries, and portend crows. Ozeki brilliantly weaves the nuanced world of Nao, an angst ridden Japanese teenage girl, desperately trying to find meaning in anything, from manga superheroes to her 104-year-old great-grandmother. Her journal, bound in a worn, red leather cover of Prost’s “A la recherche du temps perdu” (“A Search for Lost Time”), mysteriously washes up on the beach of a tiny British Columbia island and is found by Ruth, a blocked writer trapped between her previous work and her incessant now. From there a bond is forged between these two out-of-time story tellers and wanderers.
The novel opens with the beginnings of that journal, written by Nao in a lonely Tokyo cafe:
Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a 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.
From those first lines until the final epilogue, Ozeki masterfully chronicles the severed moments of Nao’s tremulous life and Ruth’s urgent need to make sense of those capsules of time. Much like the origami insects Nao’s father creates from discourses of dead philosophers, we’re invited to partake in the possibility of seeing life as other than what we perceive, witnessing through the back and forths of time and place the luminous surprises an author of Ozeki’s caliber can summon into our time being.
Soaring on currents of regret and forgiveness, lost and found, the ordinary and the heroic, “A Tale for the Time Being” is a novel for this now, for this time of nuclear drift, of economic bubbles bursting and internet propensity, epidemic suicide and climate evolution. Yet it is also a messenger of compassion, of wisdom, of honour and of shared humanity. Find your way to this remarkable book. It’s about time.
Book trailer by acrossborders.com