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Reviewletts: ‘Attachments’ and ‘A Tale for the Time Being’

One of the things that I love about switching to mini-reviews for fiction is that I don’t need to take notes or think too hard while I’m reading, I can just enjoy a book. The only problem with that situation is that when I feel somewhere in the middle about a book — as I did with both Attachments and A Tale for the Time Being — it’s hard to remember exactly why. But I pulled out my thinking cap and, I hope, have some thoughts to share with you about what I liked and didn’t like about a couple of piece of contemporary fiction.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

attachments by rainbow rowellBeth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers – not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

Attachments is probably not a book I would have picked up if not for an enthusiastic review by a fellow book lover and my total adoration for Rainbow Rowell’s most recent book, Fangirl. I bought the ebook of Attachments a couple of years ago and started reading it, but the story didn’t grab me so I never finished it.

I picked it up a second time a few weeks ago when I just needed something frothy and ended up reading it in a single day. It was a sweet, diverting book, although it didn’t grab onto me the way Fangirl did – maybe Rowell’s style is more suited to YA characters? In any case, I liked both Lincoln and Beth and thought the style of the story – alternating from emails between Beth and Jennifer to chapters about Lincoln – was a fun storytelling device. I didn’t love the book, but it made me excited to pick up Eleanor and Park sometime soon.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

a tale for the time being by ruth ozekiIn Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace – and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox – possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

I thought A Tale for the Time Being was an ok book… but I think my “meh” reaction is a case of a disconnect between what I expected and what I ended up getting. The early sections of the book are very down to earth – so real and current that, in the back of my head, I started to think of the book like I might think about a work of nonfiction. For example, I just read a book that was, in part, the story of the process of investigating and telling a story; in this book, there’s a sense of process as Ruth tries to uncover the mystery of Nao and her diary. I was thinking one thing, then book twisted and gave me something entirely different.

Late in the book there’s a moment that is decidedly “un-real” (maybe magical realism, although I’m honestly not sure if I’m using the term correctly) that caught me off guard and affected how I felt finishing the book. I think if the book had stayed “real” I would have ended up loving it, but because of the twist I felt like the ending didn’t match what had come before it, which left me a little bit disappointed. That’s not entirely fair to the book, I know, but that was my reaction. That said, I loved Ozeki’s writing and I am excited to try another of her books.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Andi @ Estella's Revenge February 25, 2014, 9:23 am

    I’ve seen some other comments about the “unreal” section of A Tale for the Time Being, and I’m actually really glad to know that going in. Maybe it’ll help me temper my expectations a bit.

    • Kim February 25, 2014, 8:25 pm

      I think if I read the book again I would see the hints she drops about the “unreal” section. If it hadn’t surprised me, I think it wouldn’t have affected my impressions so much.

  • Rory February 25, 2014, 9:46 am

    I’ve tried to pick up Attachments too and I haven’t been caught up in it. I also wanted to give it another try, based on the raves of a few other bloggers (and the premise is cute). I don’t know if it sounds like I’ll love it though. I ran into this problem with The Rosie Project as well, it just never grabbed me, though I did manage to finish it and thought it was perfectly fine.

    • Kim February 25, 2014, 8:26 pm

      I bought an ebook of The Rosie Project when it was on sale not too long ago. I like books in that vein once awhile, but they don’t usually stick with me.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) February 25, 2014, 10:01 am

    I’ve been hoping to read Attachments soon so I’m disappointed to see you didn’t love it as much as Fangirl.

    • Kim February 25, 2014, 8:27 pm

      It’s perfectly charming book, it just did hit me the way Fangirl did, I think because I wasn’t quite as absorbed by the world of the characters.

  • Meg February 25, 2014, 10:08 am

    I’ve had Attachments in my bookcase for years, but never took the time to start it. I loved Eleanor & Park and purchased Fangirl on the enthusiastic recommendation of so many blogger friends, so I’m sure I’ll grab it sometime soon! But after Fangirl. Must move that up the TBR.

    • Kim February 25, 2014, 8:27 pm

      Fangirl was just such a delightful read. I adored it.

  • Trisha February 25, 2014, 6:51 pm

    I still need to read Fangirl and Eleanor & Park. Two books that I’ve been meaning to read for what feels like ages.

    • Kim February 25, 2014, 8:27 pm

      I’m excited to read E&P this year.

  • Words for Worms February 25, 2014, 8:09 pm

    I really liked Attachments, though it wasn’t my favorite Rainbow Rowell offering. I ADORED Fangirl and Eleanor & Park. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on E&P!

    • Kim February 25, 2014, 8:28 pm

      I’m glad for the enthusiastic endorsement of both! I’m saving E&P for the perfect mood, I think.

  • Steph February 25, 2014, 8:35 pm

    Interesting, I also felt that A Tale for the Time Being disappointed due to faulty expectations, except in my case, I really enjoyed the final third of the book (but then, I really like magical realism) and found the early sections of the book quite dry and dull! I’m not even 100% sure that all the parts in that final third of the book even worked or made sense, but I liked that they were unexpected and unusual; to me, that’s when the novel finally had some life to it. But, overall, I felt fairly apathetic about the book—the writing was solid, but I just didn’t connect with the story or the characters for the most part. Definitely a case of wanting to like the book more than I ultimately did.

    • Kim March 1, 2014, 2:39 pm

      It’s so interesting we had basically opposite reactions to this one!

  • Jenny @ Reading the End February 25, 2014, 9:56 pm

    I loved the “unreal” aspects of A Tale for the Time Being at the end, but I can understand your feelings of disappointment, and you’re not the only person I’ve seen who felt that way. I don’t know why I liked it! I usually can’t abide magical realism, which the ending of this book sort of was, but I thought it was great from start to finish.

    (Attachments not so much. Premise stayed creepy.)

    • Kim March 1, 2014, 2:40 pm

      I’m glad you liked this one! I wish I had more 🙂

  • Amy February 26, 2014, 8:46 am

    I had very mixed feelings about the Ozeki. Like you, the magical realism didn’t cut it for me. I also got very tired of the Ruth character and was much more interested in what was happening with the young girl.

    • Kim March 1, 2014, 2:40 pm

      Nao was much more interesting that Ruth.

  • Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf February 26, 2014, 6:13 pm

    I’ve been in a “want to read EVERYTHING by Rainbow Rowell” mood lately, so I need to grab Attachments soon. 🙂

  • Jennine G. February 26, 2014, 10:00 pm

    It probably was probably magical realism. I really don’t like mixing my realism and fantasy at all! My mind can’t wrap around it.

  • Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm February 27, 2014, 5:59 pm

    Have you read Eleanor and Park? I loved that one, but have yet to read any other Rainbow Rowell. Curious where Attachments would fall between Fangirl and E&P…

    • Kim March 1, 2014, 2:41 pm

      I haven’t read Eleanor and Park, but I have it waiting on my shelf. I’m saving it for when I need a book to fall in love with 🙂

  • Athira February 27, 2014, 6:20 pm

    I enjoyed Attachments a lot more than I expected to, but like you, I enjoyed Eleanor and Park more. I wonder if maybe her story-telling techniques and writing improved a lot more also between the books.

  • Kailana February 27, 2014, 7:43 pm

    I am kind of iffy about A Tale for the Time Being, but some people love it. I just haven’t picked it up yet. And, Attachments didn’t work for me the first time I tried, too. I haven’t got to my second try yet!

    • Kim March 1, 2014, 2:41 pm

      I was in a mood for an easy book I could breeze though, which Attachments definitely was. I didn’t love it, but it was what I wanted to read at the moment.

  • Aarti March 2, 2014, 12:35 am

    I can see why the ending of A Tale for the Time Being took you by surprise. I agree there is no real notice of it becoming more of a magical realism type of book at all. I really enjoyed the book because I loved Nao as a narrator. I think her narrative voice made up for a lot for me.

  • susan March 5, 2014, 2:30 pm

    I’m a bit on the fence about A Tale for the Time Being, so I’m glad you tempered it for me. We’ll see if I pick it up this year … thanks

  • Nish March 9, 2014, 3:01 am

    I thought the book tried to do too much towards the end and that whole crow thing didn’t work for me, but overall it is a solid book, just not special or magical, that I was hoping it would be.