Three-time Canadian novelist Ruth Ozeki is at it again. The plot of her new novel interweaves the stories of Ruth, a writer living on an island off the coast of British Columbia, and Nao, a Japanese teenage girl. Nao’s family is a mess – except for her great-grandmother, a Zen Buddhist nun who has turned her own past tragedy into wisdom and helps Nao endure in a way no one else can.
When Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunch box washed up on the shore of her island and begins to read the journal she finds inside, she learns of Nao’s difficulties – how she was forced to return to Japan after her father lost his job in Silicon Valley, and, having grown up in California, is now treated like a foreigner in her own country, mercilessly bullied and tormented in school. Seeing tragedy looming in Nao’s future, Ruth wants to change the expected outcome for both Nao and her family. But can she intervene to effect change when the story presumably took place long before she is reading it?
With quotations from Proust and Zen Master Dogen setting the tone, this meditation on time and so much else makes us ponder how we can live in the face of the transient nature of existence, how we can care for each other along the way, and how we can be transformed in the most unexpected ways.
NOTE: WATCH FOR A DIALOGUE WITH MS OZEKI TO APPEAR HERE IN THE NEAR FUTURE.