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The Book of Form and Emptiness: A Novel Hardcover – September 21, 2021


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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of September 2021: If someone were to recommend a novel featuring a character who hears wilted lettuce talking, that might give me pause. But when it’s penned by Ruth Ozeki, sign me up! The Book of Form and Emptiness finds a mother and son grappling with the profound loss of the patriarch of the family, who dies in a freak accident. While the mother’s anguish expresses itself in a growing hoarding problem, her son hears inanimate objects talking to him, and these voices eventually overwhelm in a cacophony that drowns out his own. Did I mention the book itself is also a character? This is just another of the many quirky elements that leaven an otherwise serious but achingly compassionate story that mines the complexities of grief while also making a sly critique of consumerism. And Ozeki does this with her signature humanity and heart. If you listen carefully, you might hear this book telling you to read it, and you absolutely should. —Erin Kodicek, Amazon Editor

Review

NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF FALL 2021 BY TIME, VULTURE, LOS ANGELES TIMES, LIT HUB, THE MILLIONS, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY AND BOOKPAGE

“Ozeki has shifted her readers’ way of perceiving what is 'normal' through a sort of slow, capillary action. Her books are not didactic, but they are useful; they’re not mission-driven, but they are richly moral. She writes urgently about the environment—you leave an Ozeki book knowing more about ocean contamination or factory farming—and her novels tend to include a painful parent-child rupture as well as a burbling stream of absurdist humor . . . Ozeki started writing The Book of Form and Emptiness eight years ago, but it is eerily suited to what readers are going through now, a quantum companion to A Tale for the Time Being: If time is part of healing, sorting through matter—through stuff—is part of mourning.” New York Magazine

“Heartfelt . . . Ozeki, a practicing Buddhist priest, infuses her story with Zen philosophy, using themes of mindfulness and our connection to the living world to highlight pressing modern concerns like climate change, capitalism and the function of art. Inventive, vivid and propelled by a sense of wonder, The Book of Form and Emptiness will delight younger and older readers alike.” TIME

“An ambitious and ingenious novel that presents a stinging exploration of grief [and] a reflection on our relationship to objects . . . combine[s] daunting intellectual complexity and accessible big-heartedness . . . The most endearing aspect of Ozeki’s novel is its unabashed celebration of words, writing, and reading . . . Ozeki’s playfulness and zaniness, her compassion and boundless curiosity, prevent the novel from ever feeling stiff or pretentious. Clever without being arch, metafictional without being arcane, dark without being nihilistic, The Book of Form and Emptiness is an exuberant delight.” Boston Globe

“In giving the Book a point of view, Ozeki creates a loquacious, animated voice with ideas about other books, the past, the need for human stories and the mutual needs of humans and books. . . With this well-developed voice, Ozeki plays humorously with ideas about what a novel is — about the development of a story, how it gets told, who tells it, who hears it and how books affect people . . . Ozeki, who is a Zen Buddhist priest and filmmaker, takes up big ideas about this moment on our planet, but also offers close descriptions of memorable images that make the prose absorbing . . . These images reverberate long after the reading, speaking to Ozeki’s broad and benign vision of connected beings.” Seattle Times

“With her characteristic charm, empathy, and perspicacity, Ozeki writes Benny’s story of learning to hear, and manage, the voices, and hear himself along the way.” The Millions

“[A] poignant and funny story.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“If what you need right now is to sink into a big, warm, literary bath, this is the book for you. It’s not that Ozeki’s latest novel isn’t challenging, it’s just that it manages to be so while also being pure pleasure, especially if you’re the kind of person who once had mostly books for friends . . . It’s a big book in more ways than one, complex and ambitious and wide-ranging, but honestly also just so charming I found it hard to walk away from, even when I was done.” —Emily Temple, Lit Hub

“Ozeki’s illuminating postmodern latest [...] explores themes of mourning, madness, and the powers of the imagination . . . Ozeki playfully and successfully breaks the fourth wall [...] and she cultivates a striking blend of young adult fiction tropes with complex references to Walter Benjamin, Zen Buddhism, and Marxist philosophy. This is the rare work that will entertain teenagers, literary fiction readers, and academics alike.” Publishers Weekly

“[Ozeki] writes with bountiful insight, exuberant imagination, and levitating grace about psychic diversity, our complicated attitude toward our possessions, street protests, climate change, and such wonders as crows, the moon, and snow globes. Most inventively, Ozeki celebrates the profound relationship between reader and writer. This enthralling, poignant, funny, and mysterious saga, thrumming with grief and tenderness, beauty and compassion, offers much wisdom.” Booklist (starred)

“A great premise, one that perfectly captures how it feels to be a child falling into a lifelong love of reading. It’s a book for book people, exploring how books can offer meaning and – in this case, literally – speak to us.”BookPage
 
“A meditative tribute to books, libraries, and Zen wisdom.”Kirkus

“This compassionate novel of life, love and loss glows in the dark. Its strange, beautiful pages turn themselves. If you’ve lost your way with fiction over the last year or two, let The Book of Form and Emptiness light your way home.” —David Mitchell, Booker Prize-finalist author of Cloud Atlas and Utopia Avenue

“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, New York Times bestselling author of The Midnight Library

“This is both an extremely vivid picture of a small family enduring unimaginable loss, and a very powerful meditation on the way books can contain the chaos of the world and give it meaning and order. Annabelle and Benny Oh try to stay afloat in a sea of things, news, substances, technological soullessness, and psychiatric quagmires, and the way they learn to live and breathe and even swim through it all feels like the struggle we all face. The Book of Form and Emptiness builds on the themes of A Tale for the Time Being, and ratifies Ozeki as one of our era’s most compassionate and original minds.” —Dave Eggers, author of The Circle and The Parade

“Once again, Ozeki has created a masterpiece. Her generous heart, remarkable imagination, and brilliant mind light up every page.” —Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

"Ozeki has done it again. This time she crosses into new dimensions, breathing life into pages, enticing us into an intimate world. Richly imagined, gorgeously executed, The Book of Form and Emptiness is a remarkable book.” —David Eagleman, acclaimed neuroscientist and author of Livewired

Always the perfect gift

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Viking (September 21, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 560 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0399563644
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0399563645
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 11.3 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.21 x 1.63 x 9.26 inches

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