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Watermark Books to host Man Booker Shortlister Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Francesca Belanger

On January 15, Ruth Ozeki will visit Wichita to read from her critically acclaimed novel, A Tale for the Time Being. The author will arrive at 5:00 p.m. CST for a meet and greet, and the reading will be held at 6:00 p.m. Contact Watermark Books and Café for information about this ticketed event.

Sixteen year-old Nao has decided to commit suicide. Before she does, she wants to document the life of her grandmother, a 103-year-old Buddhist nun and Japanese revolutionary, who had lost her only son in World War II. In doing so, Nao also writes about herself and the unbearable circumstances of her own life.

Across the Pacific, Ruth, a novelist with writer’s block, finds Nao’s writings along the coast of British Columbia, perfectly preserved in a Hello Kitty lunchbox. As Ruth reads, she finds herself desperate to save Nao from her intentions, even though she understands that as she reads, whatever has become of Nao must have happened years prior.

The novel blends Nao and Ruth’s stories seamlessly, engaging the reader with Nao’s plucky narrative, despite her despair. Ruth’s circumstances are also dispiriting, as she yearns for a life she’s long left behind, but has bonded with the one she’s chosen due both to obligation and devotion.

Not a word or literary choice is wasted in this layered novel. Both the title and Nao’s name (pronounced “now”) are obvious allusions to the theme that time and space can be relative, as we read about Ruth and Nao, separated by time and space, yet somehow able to affect one another profoundly. The novel has several more intertwined stories than are described here with fascinating characters both connected and separated by space and time. It is a novel one will read repeatedly and discover something new every time.

A Tale for the Time Being is Ozeki’s third novel. Ruth Ozeki is also a filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest. She is as intriguing as her works, and much of her work is based on her own life, friends and heroes. To hear more about this remarkable novelist, be sure to attend her reading at Watermark Books and Café on January 15.