A very strange and interesting book. I recommend it especially if you've ever wanted to learn a bit about the inner workings of a traditional Japanese Buddhist temple.There are two main plotlines within this novel: The first is struggling writer, Ruth, finds the diary of a young Japanese girl. The second is the diary itself, written by 16-year-old suicidal Naoko. Naoko's story - the fact that she wants to write down her great-grandmother's life story but ends up writing her own - was by far the more interesting. I loved learning about all the intricacies of Japanese culture and Buddhist rituals. Ruth, meanwhile, is a city girl trapped on a rural island because of her husband, a semi-autistic man whose soul purpose in the novel is to act as a mouthpiece for Ruth's inner conscience. Oh, and to be the impetus for Ruth to move to the island in the first place. I really liked Oliver...or at least I really wanted to. He's an intelligent character, sometimes almost too intelligent. He always has the right answer for Ruth, or is able to explain some complicated bit of science or machinery. He's pretty much a walking, talking Wikipedia. Nice try, Oliver, but I would have liked you more if you'd been a little more fleshed out.Up until the last quarter of the novel, I was ready to give it a three-star review. Not great but not terrible. But then (no spoilers, I think) a funky magical realistic element is introduced, which was kind of fun. Up until then Ruth has been firmly rooted in reality while Naoko opens herself up to the mystical universe - now Ruth must learn to do the same. Trite, perhaps, but it certainly caught my attention.