A Tale For the Time Being Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Tale For the Time Being

Through her descriptive and witty journal entries, we follow the story of Nao, a troubled, teenage girl living in Japan, suffering from incessant bullying. Ruth is a writer living in a desolate area of British Columbia with her husband. Life is bleak before she finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox that had washed up on her local beach. After taking it home, and investigating its contents, she finds a journal with a young, Japanese, teen's entries.
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The next chapters follow Nao through her descriptive and humorous entries. She explains that although she is being severely bullied at school, her parents are little consolation, and she feels that her life is beginning to slip from her grasp. She plans on killing herself when the next opportunity arises, but before she goes through with it, she wants to document her great grandmother, Jiko's life.
Nao admits that she has lost all motivation to do well in school -- something her parents highly value -- and she is purposefully botching her exams.
Her only outlet in her lonely life is writing, which she discovered when she began documenting "Old Jiko's" life.
Through Nao's confused, teenaged lense, we discover that her father, a computer wizard, lost his job months ago, which is the source of his long-lasting depression, and the real reason they had to leave Sunnyvale, California, and return to Tokyo.
Despite the common ground they share in terms of depression, Nao and her father have drifted apart quite severely over the past year. It is the last straw for Nao, when, one night, she finds that her mother had driven her father to the hospital after a failed attempt at suicide.
Then, soon after the suicide incident, Nao is beaten and almost raped in the school bathroom by her frequent bullies, and they capture it on video. The bullies then upload the video to the internet, and post an ad, selling her bloody panties for a large price.
Later, after researching a way to get her shame off the internet, she realizes that the person who purchased her underwear is her father; he had chivalrously saved her the pain and embarrassment of a stranger buying them.
Although Nao is grateful that she is beginning to rekindle her relationship with her dad, she is still depressed, and her bullying has not ceased. She turns to her only friend, an older woman that works in a French Maid cafe. Her friend involves now in the "escort" business, and Nao begins her first sexual experiences.
Eventually, Nao's mother realizes that both Nao and her father are not acting like themselves, so she sends them to spend a little time with Nao's great grandmother, Jiko, a Buddhist nun.
At first, Nao is perplexed as to why her mother is making her stay with an old lady who knows so little about bullying, but eventually she learns more Buddhist customs and traditions, and even more about her family history, and their involvement in the war.
When Nao and her father leave, they are both almost completely shed of their depressive states, and Nao makes a statement to her peers and abusive teachers at school by shaving her head, like Jiko's.
Ruth also has a Buddhist epiphany after reading Nao's journal and learning more about Buddhists.
By the end of the novel, we find out that Nao has decided not to kill herself, that her father has overcome his failure and depression, and that Nao will go on to be a successful, contributing member of society.
Best part of story, including ending: I really liked this story because it was witty, sarcastic, and unexpectedly enlightening.

Best scene in story: Although the scene where Nao is being beaten and almost raped in the school bathroom was horrific and depressing, I found the scene very realistic in its description. The thoughts that went through Nao's mind in that kind of emergency were very real, and even though it was a disgraceful moment, the imagery was beautifully writen.

Opinion about the main character: I appreciated Nao's consistent sarcasm and humor throughout the entire novel. She made me laugh and almost cry numerous times, all through casual journal entries.

The review of this Book prepared by Keirstan Schiedeck a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of A Tale For the Time Being

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   humorous Time/era of story    -   1980's-1999 Romance/Romance Problems    -   Yes Kids growing up/acting up?    -   Yes Kids:    -   being bullied in school Kind of sex:    -   rape Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Age group of kid(s) in story:    -   high school Something wrong upstairs/downstairs?    -   mental illness Parents/lack of parents problem?    -   fighting with domineering daddy Taboo sex story?    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   student Age:    -   a teen Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Japanese


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   5 () Asia/Pacific    -   Yes Asian country:    -   Japan The Americas (not US):    -   Yes The Americas:    -   Canada

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only    -   descript of kissing    -   touching of anatomy Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Ruth Ozeki Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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