This fine novel seriously wrinkled my brain. I finished it almost 48 hours ago, yet I kept coming back to it. Sometimes I would listen to a particular passage or chapter as read by the author, Ruth Ozeki. After several frustrating attempts to find things I thought I remembered reading on my kindle version I gave up and bought a print copy. I have a personal code where I never mark up books with my own notes or underlining or highlighting (even e-books. how goofy is that?). So I keep a packet of bookdarts to tag things until I can scribble them down. I went through two packets. I just don’t want the next person to have to step all over that crap on their way to making the experience their own. It’s not always possible, but when you can come into a book with no preconceived notions or outside opinions clouding your experience, it is such a gift.
Wait, how did I get this far away from that first sentence? This book wrinkled my brain and will probably continue to do so for a while. That’s a pretty good review in itself, huh? Oh alright, I’ll just get on with it as best I can.
Ruth is a writer living on an island off the coast of British Columbia, and is deep in the throes of a serious case of writers block. As she walks the beach one day, something shiny amid the kelp catches her eye. She thinks it must be a jellyfish, but upon closer inspection, discovers it is a plastic freezer bag in which a Hello Kitty lunchbox has been placed. In the box she finds letters, a journal written in French and a copy of Prousts À la recherche du temps perdu. Only, when she opens this book, she sees that that original text has been removed and replaced with new pages on which someone has been keeping her own diary. Her name is Nao. She is sixteen and having trouble adjusting to life in Tokyo, where her family has returned after spending the majority of her life in Sunnyvale, California.
We move back and forth between Ruth and Nao’s point of view and back and forth in time because of this. The nature of time and death and what it means to be human in the face of inhumanity ebb and flow like the oceans inexorable tide. In my heart and mind, it’s continuing still.