The Book of Form and Emptiness
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WINNER OF THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2022
One year after the death of his beloved musician father, thirteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house – a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn’t understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.
At first Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where objects are well-behaved and know to speak in whispers. There, he falls in love with a mesmerising street artist with a smug pet ferret, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him to ask important questions and find his own voice amongst the many. And he meets his very own Book – a talking thing – who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.
The Book of Form and Emptiness blends unforgettable characters, riveting plot and vibrant engagement with everything from jazz to climate change to our attachment to material possessions. This is classic Ruth Ozeki – bold, humane and heartbreaking.
Heart-breaking and heart-healing – a book to not only keep us absorbed but also to help us think and love and live and listen. No one writes quite like Ruth Ozeki and The Book of Form and Emptiness is a triumph — MATT HAIG Praise for A Tale for the Time Being: This is one of the most deeply moving and thought-provoking novels I have read in a long time. In precise and luminous prose, Ozeki captures both the sweep and detail of our shared humanity, moving seamlessly between Nao’s story and our own — MADELINE MILLER A triumph . . . Ozeki explores what it means to be human in this moment, right now (Nao). Her novel is saturated with love, ideas and compassion. In short, an absolute treat * * Sunday Times * * A Tale for the Time Being is a timeless story. Ruth Ozeki beautifully renders not only the devastation of the collision between man and the natural world, but also the often miraculous results of it. She is a deeply intelligent and humane writer who offers her insights with a grace that beguiles. I truly love this novel — ALICE SEBOLD Ingenious and touching, A Tale for the Time Being is also highly readable. And interesting: the contrast of cultures is especially well done — PHILIP PULLMAN A beautifully interwoven novel about magic and loss and the incomprehensible threads that connect our lives. I just finished it, and loved it — ELIZABETH GILBERT Funny, heartbreaking, moving and profound . . . The warmth, compassion, wisdom and insight with which Ozeki pieces all these stories together will have the reader linked in a similarly profound way to this fantastic novel * * Independent * * A Tale for the Time Being is equal parts mystery and meditation. The mystery is a compulsive, gritty page-turner. The meditation – on time and memory, on the oceanic movement of history, on impermanence and uncertainty, but also resilience and bravery – is deep and gorgeous and wise. A completely satisfying, continually surprising, wholly remarkable achievement, this is a book to be read and reread — KAREN JOY FOWLER A huge, compassionate and cleverly wrought novel * * Times Literary Supplement * * Packed with philosophical asides about time, and is unexpectedly moving * * The Times * *
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