Around a campfire months ago, I overheard a woman speaking rapturously of Cloud Atlas. Given how transformative that 2004 novel was for me as a reader, I was anxious to hear what else she'd read that approximated the reading experience of David Mitchell's masterpiece. Before she finished describing A Tale for the Time Being, it was added to my over-stuffed list. Like many bookworms, I cherish these moments when another passionate reader directs me to a hidden treasure like this 2013 novel by Ruth Ozeki.
" .. the world was cracking open to show me something really important underneath."
That phrase - near the end of A Tale for the Time Being - aptly describes the effect this book had on me from the start. Page after page, this gifted author cracked open the world, exposing me to Zen Buddhism, quantum mechanics, Marcel Proust. Ozeki showed me something important underneath each of her two parallel stories. Though Nao and Ruth meet only via Nao's diary, they are deeply connected in their search for lost time. And their search continued to crack open my world, taking me back to the words of Dogen Zenji in the 13th century: "To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by a myriad of things."
What a ride.