A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For December 2014, I had three books to read: Plato’s Republic, Rebecca Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex, and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being. I feel delighted that these three books fit together so well, weaving one with another in all kinds of past, present, and future. The first two I knew would fit together, but Ruth Ozeki’s book was a bit of a surprise. I had it on my to-read list, but it was my spouse who picked it for me for December when he checked it out from the library for my birthday.

What I’m wondering is, would any three books I picked up during December fit together? If I’m reading three books at essentially the same time, will they all blend together regardless of what they’re about, or would they all have to mention, say, Socrates, as all three of these books did?

Whatever the reason, I do think that the fitting-together of these three books enhanced the reading of each of them. They’re all sort of mushing together in my mind right about now, but I’ll try to write just about A Tale for the Time Being.

My thoughts:

1) This book is shelved in the YA section of my library. With a daughter who’s started dipping into the YA section, I find this a little alarming. I’m not into censoring my daughter’s reading, but I would feel strange if she were to read about the torture, bullying, suicidal thoughts, and sexual content in this book. It’s not filled with those things, and I wouldn’t even be thinking about it were it not for the “YA” sticker on the spine, and perhaps if my daughter were actually a “young adult” and not a precocious nine-year-old, I would feel less uncomfortable about giving her free rein in the YA section.

2) This book has really made me crave out-of-the-way places, like Zen monasteries and remote Canadian islands. Maybe I am in one or both of these places right now in alternate universes.

3) With as weird as I find quantum mechanics and parallel universes (and the people who talk about them) to be, I really enjoyed Ozeki’s take on them. The story led a place I didn’t expect, and that was actually pleasant. Good and bad are all mixed up—planting non-native plants to keep one step ahead of climate change, losing house pets because of the reintroduction of large predators to the ecosystem, a friend who helps but perhaps for not-so-helpful reasons—which makes a story all the more messy and real.

4) The mixing up of the narrator/author/character division really worked for me, even though it left me feeling kind of unsettled (I kind of like feeling unsettled).

So, there’s my messy review. I liked this book, but I’m going to wait a few years before telling my daughter about it.

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