A Tale For The Time Being
Suggested Discussion Questions for Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being
A Tale for the Time Being—with its emphasis on diary entries, letters, conversations, text messages and videos in Japanese, English and French—is essentially a book about global communication in its many forms. It is about what it really means to understand, or not understand, what another person is trying to express.
How do different methods of communication connect characters in the book, and how do they act as a barrier?
How do shifts in the form of communication and the language in which it is shared impact understanding?
Although Nao’s feelings of isolation are central to the novel, the reader senses isolation in Ruth as well. Is there a way in which Nao and Ruth form two halves of the same character? Why do you think Ruth feels that Nao’s diary was written specifically for her?
Ruth struggles with leaving New York City for the island on the Pacific, but Nao is comforted when she leaves Tokyo for the countryside. How does the geography of place impact an individual’s experience? How does it impact the book’s theme of global connectedness?
The presence of the jungle crow on the island is an unexpected surprise. Is this a symbol? If so, of what? What does the jungle crow represent to Ruth? To you?
The book touches on environmental issues: global warming, nuclear power, and garbage in the Pacific Ocean. Given what you’ve read or heard about the March 2011 Japan tsunami, is it likely that the disaster was responsible for the diary washing ashore? The island residents discuss their concerns about the environment on pages 144-146. Do you share their fears?
Setting for Nao: Tokyo
Setting for Ruth: Island of British Columbia