A strange item catches Ruth attention, as she's walking along the beach of her island home in Desolation Sound, off the west coast of Canada, in the British Columbia(has to be Cortes Island, based on the author's description of ferries etc). When she picks up the item, it turns out to be a plastic bag covered in Barnacles, but containing a Hello Kitty lunch box. When she gets home, Ruth discovers a book inside, which at first glance appears to be a copy of Proust's "À la recherche du temps perdu" (In Search of Lost Time), but is actually the diary of a young Japanese girl, Nao, who lives in Tokyo. The story alternates between Nao's diary pages and Ruth's life, in response to what she's reading.
Nao is 15 and recently uprooted from her Sunnyvale, California home, back to Japan, due to her father having lost his Silicon Valley job. Now that she's back in Japan, her family is essentially penniless and Nao has become the target of bullies in her school. Nao's great-grandmother, Jiko, is 104 and a Buddhist nun. Nao decides to end her life, but first, she decides to write the Jiko's story in this great journal she's found (the Proust pages were cut out and blank pages wrapped with the Proust cover). Instead, she ends up telling her own tale.
Ruth is a writer who lives on the island with her husband Oliver. They are part of a cast of eccentrics that live on the Island and are a hardy lot. They are used to living in isolation(there's two ferries, with another island in between rides, to get to the "city", which is more like a small town to most, and on another Island, Vancouver Island if anyone's interested). Their island is lovely in the summer and full of tourists and Salmon fishers, but it's a short, good weather season. The balance of the year they are subject to foul weather, including rain, high winds and power outages often lasting up to four or five days. They spend their time writing and researching and travelling to New York, where Ruth was living when she met Oliver.
This book is so unexpected and full of seeming impossibility, which brings into question the idea of parallel universe and the power of thoughts. I found it refreshingly unpredictable and incredibly well written. There are even footnotes to explain many of the Japanese phrases and customs and I found a lot of wisdom contained in the pages. I learned new things and found myself re-thinking some of my beliefs. Ms. Ozeki, who is also a Zen Buddhist priest, has a keen sense of observation and ways of making you look at things a bit differently!! This is one of those books that will stick with me for a long time.
I really love this book and highly recommend it for all!!!