A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Shortly after the great earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan, Ruth, who lives on the western coast of Canada, finds a finely wrapped bag washed upon the coast of her small town. Inside there is a Hello Kitty lunchbox containing a diary from a young teenaged Japanese girl. Could she be a casualty of the great tragedy?
Nao is the author of the diary. She lives a tragic life — her home is unstable, and she is mercilessly bullied in school. Her classmates even hold a mock funeral for her so they no longer have to acknowledge her existence. Nao is determined to commit suicide, but not until she has written about her great-grandmother, Jiko, who is a Buddhist nun in the hills of Japan and Nao’s only living hero and comfort.
Meanwhile, Ruth, who is translating the diary (the author of this novel, herself, is Ruth) is becoming increasingly worried about Nao and is trying everything to find her. As a very spiritual person, Ruth dreams that she can transcend space and time to intercede in an impending crisis for Nao’s family — an incredible notion that has some probability in quantum physics according to her brilliant and eclectic husband.
This book is a rich tapestry combining the universality of the human spirit, the mystery of the space/time continuum, the role impending death plays in life, and the nature of love for those known and unknown. Pulling at any single strand in this tapestry will provide hours of meaningful discussion for book clubs of all types.
Viking/Penguin; ISBN 978-0-14312-487-0; $16.