Existence. Environment. Philosophy. Physics. Time.
Ruth Ozeki takes these themes, and tells a tale so galactic in scope, through a crisscrossing narrative, between Ruth, a middle aged novelist living in a remote island off the coast of BC to Nao, a young girl living in Japan. Nao’s diary washes up the shores of this remote island onto the hands of Ruth and both of their stories unfold from that point. Imagine a number line, with both their perspectives sequentially moving forward in time but starting at different points. Ruth’s chapters as she reads Nao’s diary in the relative present and Nao’s chapters as she writes in her diary in the relative past, and both these timelines coalesce, like a slow drumroll leading up to this moment of profound epiphany. But not everything is made clear and all ends tied into neat little bows. She leaves some mysteries left unexplained to the reader’s interpretation which I actually really loved.
I adored the characters, especially Nao, her great grandmother Jiko, and her great-uncle Hiroki I. I loved the philosophical aspect of Zen Buddhism which isn’t all that different from Hinduism, considering it’s a subsect of Hinduism. The story is not all rosy, some horrendous and really disturbing things happen with regards to bullying and abuse but I felt it was handled really well. The island life and the environment captured in Ruth’s chapters is another facet that Ozeki has explored with such thoroughness & clarity that it almost felt academic at parts. This book is not perfect, it had minor flaws, it slowed down ever so slightly in the middle section. But that doesn’t, in any way, mar the brilliance of this book, lest cast a slight shadow. It’s made it to one of my all-time favourites and one I’d highly highly recommend.