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Lions Roar : July 2013
and devious humor, and the pages glow whenever she appears. At this point the novel takes another twist. We discover that suicidal tendencies run in Nao’s family, and the composition book found in the Hello Kitty lunchbox belonged to Nao’s great uncle, who was a Heidegger disciple cruelly “volunteered” as a kamikaze pilot in WWII. He wrote his last notes in French so they would be somewhat safe from the prying eyes of his roommates. Nao learns that this quiet man recognized that he couldn’t kill, so he vowed to steer his plane into the waves at the fatal moment. In an odd way, this tragic passage gives inspiration to both Nao and her troubled father. He realizes how terribly he has abandoned his daughter and wife and attempts to turn his life around, while at the same time we realize that he was actually fired from his cushy job because he was attempting to sabotage his computer programs that would be used for drone killing and various other kinds of hi-tech warfare. While I won’t reveal what ultimately happens to Nao, her father, Jiko, and Ruth, I will say that each of these characters is invested with life. It’s a quirky, deep, occasionally hilarious, and occasionally depressing montage of a novel. A sneaky charmer. Its only serious flaw, aside from the clunky characterization of Nao and Oliver at the beginning, is that it’s a bit of a jumble and all the leaps aren’t smooth. I would have liked a little tighter editing. For instance, as part of an explanation of events, we are given a too-long lecture by Oliver on Schrodinger’s cat (a famous physics problem) and quantum physics. It’s a clumsy attempt to over-explain information appearing and disappearing in the novel. But this is a mystery that doesn’t need to be tidily tied up. Still, A Tale for the Time Being is such a romp—so unafraid of the disasters of life, so full of delight—that it’s well worth the read. Forget the easy escape route of quantum mechanics; the novel more than supplies enough old-fashioned reading magic. ♦ SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2013 77