Lit Hub is pleased to announce that this fall, Viking will publish a new novel by Ruth Ozeki—her first since the release of her 2013 masterpiece, A Tale for the Time Being, which was was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Ozeki’s next book, The Book of Form and Emptiness, will be published on September 21st.
“I see The Book of Form and Emptiness as a cousin to my 2013 novel, A Tale for the Time Being,” Ozeki said. “Both are stories about spirited young people, grappling with emotional and mental health challenges, and coming of age in an increasingly cacophonous and surreal-seeming world. The new book draws on Zen principles of interconnectedness and impermanence (the form and emptiness of its title) to examine our relationship with the material world and the planet. But at its heart, it is the story about a boy and a book, who helps him find his voice and teaches him how to listen to what really matters.”
Here’s some more about the novel, courtesy of the publisher:
After the tragic death his beloved musician father, fourteen-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, Benny discovers a strange new world, where “things happen.” He falls in love with a mesmerizing street artist with a smug pet ferret, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him 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.
With its blend of sympathetic characters, riveting plot, and vibrant engagement with everything from jazz, to climate change, to our attachment to m material possessions, The Book of Form and Emptiness is classic Ruth Ozeki—bold, wise, poignant, playful, humane and heartbreaking.
Original author photo by Kris Krug.