One day, while walking along the beach of her remote B.C. island home, a novelist named Ruth discovers something even better than a message in a bottle. Sealed inside a series of barnacle-covered freezer bags is a red Hello Kitty lunch box. Stuffed inside that is a pack of old Japanese letters, an antique wrist-watch and the diary of sixteen-year-old Nao Yasutani.
Nao is a victim of vicious bullying at school. She's decided to end her life, but first she wants to write the life story of her great-grandmother, a 104-year-old, anarchist, feminist Zen Buddhist nun, and Nao's only inspiration.
Ruth thinks the lunch box and its contents may be debris from the Japanese tsunami of 2011. She starts reading Nao's diary and worries that the teenager either committed suicide or died later in that tsunami. Ruth becomes desperate to find out what happened to Nao. She searches the internet for clues, asks friends and neighbours to help in translating. But the mystery of the girl and what happened to her proves hard to unravel.
This is the story that unfolds in the novel A Tale for the Time Being. Ruth Ozeki the author shares many biographical similarities to the character Ruth, starting with the fact that they both live on a gulf island in British Columbia.
Ruth Ozeki is an award-winning novelist and writer. A Tale for the Time Being is her third novel and it has been short-listed for the 2013 Man Booker prize. We hope you enjoy this extended version of her conversation with Shelagh.