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Winner, LA Times Book Prize for Fiction, United States, 2013
Winner, Independent Bookseller Week, Book of the Year, United Kingdom, 2013
Shortlisted, National Book Critics Circle Awards, United States, 2013
Shortlisted, Man Booker Prize, 2013
Shortlisted, American Booksellers Assocation (ABA) Indies Choice Award for Fiction, United States, 2014
Longlisted, PEN Open Book Award, United States, 2014

Nao lives in Tokyo. She is sixteen, and has decided to write a diary before she kills herself. She has plenty of material–school bullies, depressed parents–but she particularly wants to chronicle the life of her great-grandmother, Jiko, a Buddhist nun. And eventually, Nao thinks, her diary will find its reader.

Ruth lives with her husband on the Pacific coast of Canada. A few months after the 2010 tsunami she finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore. It contains a diary…

‘This is the simple story of a girl, her great-grandmother and the novelist who becomes enthralled with their tale. But this simple story draws from the deep currents of our times, from quantum physics, Japanese ghost tales, suicide trends, first-person accounts of kamikaze fighters during World War II, thirteenth-century Buddhist texts and recent pop culture. It is a meditation on impermanence, and the intimate relationship between past and present, fact and fiction, and time and text.’ Ruth Ozeki

Read ‘Confessions of a Zen Novelist’ by Ruth Ozeki, Spring 2013 Buddhadharma magazine

Interview and review highlights:
Number 3 Chiller Q&A
Readings review
The Wheeler Centre interview
4ZZZ Book Club interview
Guardian interview
Independent review
Washington Post review
Goodreads interview
Canongate video interview

Ruth launches A Tale for the Time Being at NYU Bookstore

Praise for Ruth Ozeki and A Tale for the Time Being:

A Tale for the Time Being is a timeless story. Ruth Ozeki beautifully renders not only the devastation of the collision between man and the natural world, but also the often miraculous results of it. She is a deeply intelligent and humane writer who offers her insight with a grace that beguiles. I truly love this novel.’

Alice Sebold

A Tale for the Time Being is an extraordinary novel about a courageous young woman, riven by loneliness, by Time and (ultimately) by Tsunami. Nao is an inspired narrator and her quest to tell her great grandmother’s story, to connect with her past, with the world is both aching and true. Ozeki is one of my favorite novelists and here she is at her absolute best—bewitching intelligent hilarious and heartbreaking, often on the same page…A Tale for the Time Being is one of those novels that will renew your faith in literature.’

Junot Díaz

‘Ingenious and touching, A Tale for the Time Being is also highly readable. And interesting: the contrast of cultures is especially well done. I greatly look forward to Ruth Ozeki’s next book.’

Philip Pullman

A Tale for the Time Being is equal parts mystery and meditation. The mystery is a compulsive, gritty page-turner. The meditation—on time and memory, on the oceanic movement of history, on impermanence and uncertainty, but also resilience and bravery—is deep and gorgeous and wise. A completely satisfying, continually surprising, wholly remarkable achievement, this is a book to be read and reread.’

Karen Joy Fowler, NYT bestselling author of THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB

‘One of those exquisitely rare books in which you’re still wondering what else it holds until the very last page…[Ozeki’s] maximalist style puts her in the realms of David Foster Wallace or early David Mitchell but, unlike almost any other postmodern author for whom concepts frequently trump character, Ozeki can pluck at the heart strings like a samisen, offering moments that bring hand to mouth on both horror and joy.’

Sun Herald/Sunday Age

A Tale for the Time Being achieves an impressive balancing act: it’s a book that is profound but never earnest.’

Weekend Australian

‘An engaging, bitter-sweet work.’

NZ Weekend Herald

‘A novel that is clever on many levels but also immensely readable.’

Herald on Sunday NZ

‘The novel’s seamless web of language, metaphor and meaning can’t be disentangled from its powerful emotional impact: These are characters we care for deeply, imparting vital life lessons through the magic of storytelling. A masterpiece, pure and simple.

Kirkus Reviews

‘A huge, compassionate and cleverly wrought novel.’

Times Literary Supplement

‘delightful yet sometimes harrowing’, ‘rang[ing] widely, drawing in everything from quantum mechanics and the theory of infinite possibilities in an infinite number of universes to the teachings of the 13th-century Zen master Dogen Zenji.’

New York Times

‘We as readers undergo a discovery process just as the fictional Ruth does. It is rare to read such a complete book.’

Asian Review of Books

Ruth Ozeki


Ruth Ozeki was born and raised in Connecticut by an American father and a Japanese mother. She has lived in Japan, where among other things she worked as a bar hostess and studied flower arrangement, Noh drama and mask carving. Ruth practises Zen Buddhism and was… »

Viking book trailer

There are other editions of this book:

  • RRP: $32.99
  • Pub date: 07/03/2013
  • ISBN: 9781921961403
  • Buy: Ebook retailers