I’m going to start this review by simply stating that A Tale for the Time Being was one of my favourite books of 2014. I bought this book with great anticipation based on the book I loved so much and… I’m seriously disappointed. I found this whole book disjointed and somewhat infuriating to the point I considered giving up on it more than once.
It essentially is the story of Yumi (or Yummy, whatever) as she comes home to a farming community in Idaho after she ran away at 14. She comes back to find everything very much changed – her father is seriously ill, her mother has Alzheimers and her best friend who has her own share of problems. While the premise is good it just failed to reach its full potential in my opinion and Ozeki got too wrapped up in a side story of ethics to actually care about developing her characters to their full potential.
This book is preachy. There’s a lot of interludes about God (which I generally don’t mind if done well) and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and how chemical intervention in farming is a sin and unnatural (or words to those effects) and it’s just a pain in the ass. It drove me mad. I just couldn’t put up with it! It could have had SO much potential if it wasn’t quite as preachy, it could have been a really thought provoking book if it was done with some subtlety.
Then we have characters who are just puppets and caricatures of stereotypes. We have hippies who live in a mobile home that runs on fryer oil and try to preach all their anti-GMO stuff. We have the runaway daughter returning home who seems to be ruled by her inner 14 year old and her hormones. Let’s just not mention her kids. Then we have the former teacher that is the reason 14 year old Yumi ran away who conveniently ends up back in town the same time Yumi is… It was just too much drama and not enough story.
I read this in 3 days, it was an easy read but it wasn’t one I enjoyed. It was quite a quick read, Ozeki is a really skilled author it’s just this novel was just bad. If I’m honest I only finished this because I’m a completist who has an urge to finish whatever I start and I’ll keep it on my shelf because of the same reason (it looks pretty between Ozeki’s other two books). But ultimately, this book just didn’t sit right with me so it’s 2/5 simply because some of it, just a little, was enough to redeem it from 1/5.