Fiction Book Review of 'The Book of Form and Emptiness' by Ruth Ozeki

Arts & Culture

Photo courtesy of Danielle Tait

Imagine you’re offered the opportunity for a mindblowing high endurance hike which begins with a strenuous breathtaking uphill climb, followed by days of flat land, ending with another awe-inspiring mountainous passage.  

If you’d be interested, then I highly recommend Ruth Ozeki’s new fictional work The Book of Form and Emptiness.  The contemporary plot follows the aforementioned topography with the beginning and ending orchestral in poignancy, yet the middle cuts like a knife as far as struggle and angst.

To save you from spoilers, I’ll only say that tragedy stirs up and propels the unique mental health issues of a mother and son.  Much like many of even well adjusted parents and teenagerss, they live together yet lead parallel existences, each in denial and in protective privacy of their weaknesses.  Their hiding places of solace include retail therapy and the peace and tranquility found in the stacks of the library.

Ozeki makes this more than your average novel by employing several narrators, third person mother and son, as well as a literal fly on the wall, and the book itself.  Ozeki, a former monk, adds in magical realism, Buddhist traditions, and classic jazz to infuse her book with enchantment.  

I’d recommend this for a melting pot of groups including: mature young adults, mothers of teenagers, anyone who has known someone with hoarding difficulties and those grief stricken.  Which, when you come to think about it, includes us all.   

Photo courtesy of Danielle Tait

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