Memphis Barker

Message in a Lunchbox

A Tale for the Time Being

By

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The first few pages of Ruth Ozeki’s Booker longlisted novel are electrifying. The reader – so used to being a wallflower – all of a sudden has nowhere to hide. From the off we are called into conversation by Nao, a smart-mouthed, hyperactive teenage girl who is writing to us in the pages of her diary from a table in a French maids’ café in Tokyo. Nao wants to be friends. But this first encounter also serves as a lesson in how and how not to read: the moment an impression of our narrator starts to solidify, it is suddenly swept aside, as Nao questions or corrects herself. Think she’s a pervert? You have to double back. Find her dippy? It’s you that trusted too fast. ‘Assumptions and expectations will kill any relationship,’ says Nao. 

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