A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Format: paper via library
From Goodreads: " 'A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.'
In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.
Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
Full of Ozeki’s signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home."
Nao! Wonderful, complicated, smart, bullied, depressed, buoyant, philosophical, super Nao. She's a treasure of a character, and her tale is the definition of engrossing. I wanted to devour it in one setting, but Ruth wouldn't let me. (Ruth the character, not Ruth the novelist.) Ruth makes it all about her, possessive of Nao even with her husband. And possession gradually gives way to obsession, which is a whole delightful journey of its own, no matter how often I wanted to shake Ruth (the character) and force her to let me get back to the next installment of Nao's journal. (Okay, maybe in those cases it was Ruth the author I wanted to shake. But then she would grant me some wonderful moment with Ruth the character, and I had to restrain myself.)
This is the first of the 2013 Booker Shortlist books I've read, and based on this, I'm excited to get to the rest of the list.