The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki | Book Review


The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: September 1st, 2021
Genre: Fiction
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Rating: 4


After the tragic death of 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 mesmerising street artist with a smug pet ferret, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him to 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 material possessions, The Book of Form and Emptiness is classic Ruth Ozeki - bold, wise, poignant, playful, humane and heartbreaking.


"When a sound enter your body through your ears and merges with your mind, what happens to it? Is it still a sound then, or has it become something else?"

The Book of Form and Emptiness is a story that makes us emotional shattered, a complex one to deal with and yet, it is filled with a meaningful messages around the story. 

“Every person is trapped in their own particular bubble of delusion, and it's every person's task in life to break free. Books can help. We can make the past into the present, take you back in time and help you remember. We can show you things, shift your realities and widen your world, but the work of waking up is up to you.”
The story follow after a tragic incident happened that leads to the passing to Benny's father. It becomes a difficult battle for Benny and his mom's life. Benny start to hears voices from the items around him while his mother, Annabelle becomes a hoarder. In order to avoid hearing those voices, Benny decided to use headphones to silent it and start skipping school and stay at the library which he meets a book who will begins narrates Benny's life.

It was a complex and quite confusing but kinda quirky at the same time when the Book join in however you will get to follow the story eventually. The two main characters; Benny and Annabelle felt so real and heartbreaking. 

I, personally felt this book is really something like an important that I want to hold it close to my heart. It gives me a lot of things to think about life - my own life. It is a beautifully written, a thought-provoking, heartfelt and profound story. It took me almost a month to finish reading this but I think that period of time felt worth. The story deals a lot on trauma, grief and mental health.

Thank you Times Read for the review copy in return for an honest review.