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The Love We Share Without Knowing Paperback – November 25, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (November 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055338564X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553385649
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #512,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Barzak's accomplished novel-in-stories dwells on people dealing with life's sorrows through somewhat tenuous connections. Set in Japan, the narratives focus on protagonists from the country and travelers in search of a new life, as in Realer Than You, in which 16-year-old Elijah Fulton longs for his native America while struggling to fit into his new surroundings outside of Tokyo. The Suicide Club is made up of four young adults on the fringe of Japanese society attempting to make sense of their lives, while Sleeping Beauties concerns, albeit sappily, an American teacher and his Japanese lover; the narrator loses his identity through total immersion in his lover's life, yet it's the slow return to self that is even more devastating. If You Can Read This You're Too Close centers on a disillusioned, selfish young man whose life is changed after a blind man sees him. Barzak's perceptive writing evinces the fragile and overwhelming desire for meaning and love. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Have we unfairly placed this novel in the SF section? That's where Barzak and his fans come from, but this story will appeal to those who normally don't touch the genre. As far as classification difficulties go, many critics felt it was a stretch to call The Love We Share Without Knowing a novel rather than a short story collection. But few held this against Barzak, and it was clear that every reviewer fell in love with at least one story from the book. Critics also appreciated Barzak's light fantastic touch; they hesitated to even call it "magical realism," since events that seem to have supernatural elements to one character in the book may seem completely pedestrian to another. As several observers pointed out, this is a particularly apt style for the depiction of Japan, a simultaneously traditional and modern country. It also suits the book's young characters, who are caught between a longing for the fantasy of childhood and the independence of adulthood.

More About the Author

Christopher Barzak is the author of the Crawford Award winning novel, One for Sorrow, which was recently made into the Sundance Feature Film, "Jamie Marks is Dead" (to be released August, 29, 2014). His second book, The Love We Share Without Knowing, was a finalist for the Nebula and Tiptree Awards. His most recent books are Birds and Birthdays, a collection of surrealist fantasy stories, and Before and Afterlives, a collection of supernatural fantasies, which won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Single-Author Collection, 2013. His next novel, Wonders of the Invisible World, will be published by Knopf in 2015. He grew up in rural Ohio, has lived in a southern California beach town, the capital of Michigan, and has taught English in suburban and rural communities outside of Tokyo, Japan, where he lived for two years. Currently he teaches fiction writing in the Northeast Ohio MFA program at Youngstown State University.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
It did not feel like a collection of connected short stories with an ensemble cast of characters.
Master Dioshi
It made me realize how so many different lives can be touched by one person in some way, which is part of "the love we share without knowing."
Melissa Owens
I don't want to summarize the book or give away anything b/c it's more fun discovering on your own the inter-relatedness of the characters.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on December 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
In Ami, Japan, sixteen year old American Elijah Fulton is bored. His only outlet is running. On an isolated path he meets a red fox who seems to imply he should follow; he does and ends up in a sacred circle. Soon after still suffering ennui, Elijah without telling anyone takes the train to Tokyo. After spending the day there, he tries to find the train back to the town where he, his parents and younger sister reside, but fails; no one seems to help him until a teen calling herself Midori helps him as she is going there too. After leaving the train at Ami they walk together until she heads to her father's farm while he goes home. Later he learns Midori committed suicide thirteen years ago.

In Tokyo, Hitumi meets Kazuko in a restaurant after each of their respective dates let them down. Soon afterward Asami and Tadashi the only male of the four form a suicide club pact that reminds Hitumi of her late friend Midori.

More a series of somewhat related vignettes rather than short stories or a novel, THE LOVE WE SHARE WITHOUT KNOWING is a deep look at loneliness and its twin need to belong to others. Christopher Barzak makes the case that the human need for companionship is a basic requirement just a notch less critical than physical survival needs like food, water and shelter. Well written with more episodes than those above, but somewhat depressing because part of belonging could lead to negative consequences like forming a suicide club pact. Fans who appreciate a powerful character study that gets into the essence of human need (think of the Maslow's hierarchy) will relish this engaging but gloomy glimpse into the human psyche.

Harriet Klausner
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By N. M. Deniro on March 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
In this second novel by Christopher Barzak, readers will connect not only with familiar characters but with characters from far away. It is what I like to call a "global" novel, rather than one that speaks only to one country or region. It's a novel set in Japan, with characters both Japanese and American, as well as a few other nationalities. Each chapter is a story in and of itself. Some are told in the first person, almost as if the characters are sharing the secret stories of their lives with the reader, creating an amazing feeling of intimacy. Other chapters are told in the third person omniscient, in which the reader feels as if they are watching these characters on a movie screen. And other chapters are told in other ways, as in the third chapter, when it seems at first to be a monologue until you read to its end and discover that it isn't a monologue so much as an "address" from one character in the novel to another. The effect of this variation of storytelling perspectives is like a symphony, a variety of instruments or voices coming together to create something more than they could be alone, which is sort of the theme of the novel, I think. It's beautiful, and the effect it creates builds as you get farther into the book and allow the voices to mingle, as they build layers of meaning and tone.

But aside from that description of the way the novel is written, what's more important is the beautiful yet sad depiction of life as we know it, in many countries, not just Japan. This a gently existential book about the stark loneliness of being surrounded by people, of trying to understand others and be understood, it's about failing, it's about the search for one's place in the world, and the always mingling worlds of things and spirits.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Master Dioshi on January 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
I will skip the description of the book, which you have probably already read above, other than to say that I disagree with how some reviewers have dealt with the short story collection nature of the book. The connections binding together the individual "stories" that comprise the book are much less loose and much more deliberate and meaningful than might appear on first reading. It did not feel like a collection of connected short stories with an ensemble cast of characters. It felt more like a French new wave fractured narrative, e.g. "Last Year at Marienbad", though with much more real emotional impact.

This is a luminous, wise book exploring the quest for connection. The characters seek to span the divide between East and West, native and foreigner, parent and child, lover and lover, stranger and stranger, friend and friend, past and present, real and fantastical, living and dead. Most of them end up frustrated in their primary connections without realizing that they have made some critical lateral side connection, that they have figured radically in some stranger's life, that they have contributed some important lesson or become some important symbol in someone else's life, possibly without knowing it, all of us producing these unintended connections until we form one great and invisible net of humanity. The gorgeous, lilting, deeply humanistic title gracefully sums it all up.

I could go on praising the book for its technical achievements -- the beautifully invisible choreography of the plots, the elegant intersecting architecture of its construction, etc., but I think that the best thing I can say is that after I finished the book, I missed the characters. All of them. Even the ones that had made bad decisions.
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