Overall Rating and Opinion of A Tale for the Time Being

Discuss the February 2014 book of the month A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

How do you rate A Tale For The Time Being?

1 star - poor, recommend against reading it
1
5%
2 stars - okay, fair
3
14%
3 stars - good, recommend it
12
55%
4 stars - excellent, amazing
6
27%
 
Total votes: 22

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jhollan2
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Re: Overall Rating and Opinion of A Tale for the Time Being

Post by jhollan2 » 26 Feb 2014, 23:58

*********Spoilers for 13 Reasons Why," if you haven't read it/plan on reading it************
Winter wrote:I actually liked the last part of the book. On the contrary, I felt it finally tied the story together. Before that, things just went from bad to worse, to even worse, to impossibly bad, and I kept thinking, good grief, what is the point to all of this and where is it going? I liked the idea of there being a kind of link through time between Ruth and Nao that ultimately helped resolve that downward spiral. I also liked that it allowed the characters to connect in a somewhat concrete way after talking to each other (sort of) through time through the diary.
I guess...the best way to describe it is that much of the book read like non-fiction. It reads like memoir, and the downward spiral was expected as you know from the beginning that Nao is contemplating suicide. I suppose I was reading it like I read "13 Reasons Why," which is a novel about a young girl who kills herself and leaves tapes for 13 people explaining why she did it. It had the same tone to me. I was assuming that the way that the author was looking at and exploring time and the bonds that form between reader and writer were realistic, to a point, so I was just totally bemused by the sudden introduction of the multiverse and quantum theory. It's not that I don't think it was well written or made sense, but even though anything can happen in fiction, doesn't mean that I don't have certain expectation of how I assume a certain book will go.

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Post by L_Therese » 01 Mar 2014, 03:59

jhollan2 wrote:I wasn't really sure what to think about the whole introduction of quantum physics as a way to manipulate time to change the future/past. It read almost like a memoir nestled into a memoir, and then I put the book down for a moment and slipped into the Twilight Zone.
I really thought that the conjunction of quantum physics and Zen Buddhism made the plot twists very interesting. First there was Jiko talking about how there is no difference between up and down - that the duality was all illusion and perspective. The author lets that one soak in for awhile and then introduces quantum physics, (cleverly alluded to several times before the obvious discussion) in which duality is both omnipresent and total illusion (like that duality there). I've seen plenty of books before address one or the other, but I've never encountered an author who will combine the two. And then as if that wasn't enough, both elements come together in the person of Haruki #2, who spent significant time with Jiko at her temple as a child and then ventured into the world of technology in his career. Either scenario returns him to himself, and when he is able to put the moral compass of the first into the practicality of the second, he is finally able to embrace life again.

-- 01 Mar 2014, 05:03 --
Sadmag wrote:I'm sorry to say I didn't enjoy this book at all. I thought it was poorly written, and Nao seemed like a tough girl but she wouldn't stand up to her bullies. I also didn't like going back and forth from Ruth to Nao. I have read many, many books and this was a book I didn't enjoy at all. I stuck with it and read the whole book.
I thought that the perspective-switching was a good way to pace the reader the same way that Ruth claimed to be pacing herself. It inserted and emphasized natural breaks into Nao's story, allowing the reader to participate more with Ruth and absorb Nao's narration the way that Ruth the Author intended.

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Post by kismoody » 01 Mar 2014, 14:26

I too liked the semi-autobiographical and the dimension of the characters. I did get discouraged with the story overall though. I do think it dragged a bit, but I actually loved the introduction, though. For me, that was my favorite part of the book. Now, a question one of my other book clubs asks is, looking at the reviews on a site like Amazon, do you agree or disagree with the general consensus of the editorial reviews?

Personally, I couldn't handle reading the 2nd review on amazon. The formatting drove me bonkers and it was a butt-load to read. The first one, however, I agreed with for the most part, but I did occasionally lose interest. How about you?
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Post by samuyama » 01 Mar 2014, 16:53

starting it a bit late but so far so good!
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Post by jhollan2 » 01 Mar 2014, 21:36

kismoody wrote:I too liked the semi-autobiographical and the dimension of the characters. I did get discouraged with the story overall though. I do think it dragged a bit, but I actually loved the introduction, though. For me, that was my favorite part of the book. Now, a question one of my other book clubs asks is, looking at the reviews on a site like Amazon, do you agree or disagree with the general consensus of the editorial reviews?

Personally, I couldn't handle reading the 2nd review on amazon. The formatting drove me bonkers and it was a butt-load to read. The first one, however, I agreed with for the most part, but I did occasionally lose interest. How about you?
I have never really been drawn to reading the kind of reviews that get posted to amazon or sites like it, because as you said, the formatting and writing is usually unbearable and they tend to be pure opinion pieces. I did look over a few of the goodreads reviews after reading this, and I did agree with quite a few of them.

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Post by Winter » 02 Mar 2014, 17:41

jhollan2 wrote:I guess...the best way to describe it is that much of the book read like non-fiction. It reads like memoir, and the downward spiral was expected as you know from the beginning that Nao is contemplating suicide. I suppose I was reading it like I read "13 Reasons Why," which is a novel about a young girl who kills herself and leaves tapes for 13 people explaining why she did it. It had the same tone to me. I was assuming that the way that the author was looking at and exploring time and the bonds that form between reader and writer were realistic, to a point, so I was just totally bemused by the sudden introduction of the multiverse and quantum theory. It's not that I don't think it was well written or made sense, but even though anything can happen in fiction, doesn't mean that I don't have certain expectation of how I assume a certain book will go.
I see your point. I still like the ending, but it's true that it was something of a shock. I think I accepted it because I was so surprised by the appearance of the ghost of Haruki #1 that afterward I was less surprised to find other deviations from the original style of the book.
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Post by L_Therese » 02 Mar 2014, 19:44

kismoody wrote:Now, a question one of my other book clubs asks is, looking at the reviews on a site like Amazon, do you agree or disagree with the general consensus of the editorial reviews?

Personally, I couldn't handle reading the 2nd review on amazon. The formatting drove me bonkers and it was a butt-load to read. The first one, however, I agreed with for the most part, but I did occasionally lose interest. How about you?
I usually find that the reviews (editorial or otherwise) on Amazon are occasionally useful for summaries, but editors always seem blown away by the books, and the customer reviews are often poorly written (although there are exceptions). In this case, I find enough information to get some kind of idea about what to expect, but the opinions are mixed in the customer reviews, and nobody seems to pick up on my favorite elements in the story. I'll tell you what, though - I'm totally with you on the second editorial review driving me bonkers with formatting. They might want to re-think that one.

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Post by Winter » 05 Mar 2014, 05:26

Did anyone else think it was strange that after Nao shaved her head and stood up in class, she went off and became a prostitute? When she made her big gesture, I thought it was a first step toward her taking control, so I didn't understand that choice. I realize she thought that Babette was her "friend," but that whole thing seemed a little weak. Any thoughts?
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Post by jhollan2 » 05 Mar 2014, 23:31

I felt like that was, at least in part, an attempt of Nao to both get back at her parents and to reclaim some control over her life. She was very angry about her situation, even after trying to get Zen. She made her big gesture, but then she had dropped out of school, which she explains essentially means that she has no future in Japan. She can't get a job without going to high school, and she doesn't have many options left. I felt like going on "dates" with the rich man was a response to that. She was literally planning to kill herself, and in the face of that, I don't think anything much mattered to her. Her only goal in life was to write in the book, and the only place she wanted to do that was in the maid cafe, and if she had to go on a few dates, then so be it.

It also seemed like a reclamation of her sexuality to me. She obviously had choices. She could have stayed home. She could have gone anywhere else in Tokyo. She could have gone to parks, or sat on benches, or just rode the train all day. After being assaulted and almost raped by her classmates, this was something that she chose. It was sex on her own terms (though I am in no way advocating young teenage girls having sex or prostitution or saying that she was in any mental state to be consenting to anything). Especially later, when she discovers that she can dominate him and feels powerful wearing his clothes out on the streets.

Again, these are not my opinions on the situation or my approval. This was my opinion on how I read Nao's perception of what was happening and her choices.

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Post by Winter » 06 Mar 2014, 12:31

jhollan2 wrote:I felt like that was, at least in part, an attempt of Nao to both get back at her parents and to reclaim some control over her life. She was very angry about her situation, even after trying to get Zen. She made her big gesture, but then she had dropped out of school, which she explains essentially means that she has no future in Japan. She can't get a job without going to high school, and she doesn't have many options left. I felt like going on "dates" with the rich man was a response to that. She was literally planning to kill herself, and in the face of that, I don't think anything much mattered to her. Her only goal in life was to write in the book, and the only place she wanted to do that was in the maid cafe, and if she had to go on a few dates, then so be it.

It also seemed like a reclamation of her sexuality to me. She obviously had choices. She could have stayed home. She could have gone anywhere else in Tokyo. She could have gone to parks, or sat on benches, or just rode the train all day. After being assaulted and almost raped by her classmates, this was something that she chose. It was sex on her own terms (though I am in no way advocating young teenage girls having sex or prostitution or saying that she was in any mental state to be consenting to anything). Especially later, when she discovers that she can dominate him and feels powerful wearing his clothes out on the streets.

Again, these are not my opinions on the situation or my approval. This was my opinion on how I read Nao's perception of what was happening and her choices.

Ok, yeah, I can see that. It's still hard for me to imagine, but I guess the turmoil in her head must have been so great that it drove her to those extremes. I wondered why she didn't even consider becoming a monk like her great grandmother. She mentioned the possibility at one point, but immediately wrote it off. Obviously, that's not a life choice that would suit everyone, but since she had given up on life and was even intending to commit suicide, it's not as though she had some other bright future planned. The only explanation I can think of is that she thought that kind of life would be worse than suicide, though that surprises me considering the respect she seemed to have for it. The time she spent with her great grandmother seemed like the only time in the whole book that she was at all happy.
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Post by thankyou » 12 Mar 2014, 02:01

The amazon rating and reviews for this book were quite good, so I tried reading it but couldn't finish it. I guess it's just not my type.
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Post by misssunflowerblue » 15 Mar 2014, 20:42

Just read the synopsis, am going to add it to my Kindle tonight!

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Post by Jen319164 » 15 Mar 2014, 21:29

I personally love it and feel like it is a beautiful and emotional roller coaster
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Post by Fran » 16 Mar 2014, 06:58

It is certainly written in as unique and original style which may not appeal to some readers. Personally I absolutely loved its originality but then authors who can write original and unique books are my absolute pleasure.
We fade away, but vivid in our eyes
A world is born again that never dies.
- My Home by Clive James

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Post by jhollan2 » 16 Mar 2014, 14:35

It was definitely a unique book that went somewhere I didn't expect, which I loved. I'd never read anything like it. I'm so happy that it was made the book of the month, because I never would have read it otherwise. I'd never heard of it, and I had to get it from another library 50 miles from home. Thanks for the suggestion.

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