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The Love We Share Without Knowing

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  381 ratings  ·  65 reviews
In this haunting, richly woven novel of modern life in Japan, the author of the acclaimed debut One for Sorrow explores the ties that bind humanity across the deepest divides. Here is a Murakamiesque jewel box of intertwined narratives in which the lives of several strangers are gently linked through love, loss, and fate.

On a train filled with quietly sleeping passengers
Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 25th 2008 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,214)
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K. Bird
Christopher Barzak is a writer from Ohio who went to Japan. (sound familiar? I actually met him there and had a conversation with him and Yoshio Kobayashi).

And his second novel, The Love We Share Without Knowing , is a book I recommend to Everyone (including my parental units.)

It's the intertwining story, centered in Ami, Japan, of a group of people and how love and death touches their lives.

But the reason I recommend this book, is because there are very few Western authors who can write about J
This book is hauntingly, achingly beautiful. So much of the fantasy genre is dedicated to escapism, but this book doesn't make me want to escape. It makes me want to run out and hop on a plane to halfway around the word so I can kiss a stranger in a city I've never been to before. It makes me want to embrace life in all its wonderful and terrible ways.
"We live in a world of illusion. I'm telling you this up front because I don't want you thinking this story is going to have a happy ending. It won't make any sense out of sadness. It won't redeem humanity in even a small sort of way."

Such begins Christopher Barzak's second novel, and it could describe his philosophy on writing. He seems obsessed with death and dead characters, imagining a world that few of us even want to think about. Add to that the fact that these are short stories, connected
Sep 04, 2012 Christopher rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
"Because if you don't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?" --RuPaul ;-)
There is a particular kind of science fiction that delves into the mysteries of ‘otherness’, such as the works of Ursula K. Le Guin. The Love We Share Without Knowing reminds me of such Le Guin masterworks as Always Coming Home, as both deal with the rituals of alien cultures. Then again, Christopher Barzak also reminds me strongly of William Gibson and David Mitchell, but also particularly of Graham Joyce and Jonathan Carroll.

There is such a plethora of authors and books available today that we
"The terrible thing about love that it takes away your safety net, your balancing pole. Even the tightrope you walk upon will disappear beneath you, yet love expects you to keep walking anyway, arms outstretched, one foot after another, or nothing more than air"

Christopher Barzak presents this novel as nine interwoven short stories, written while he was living in Japan. The stories present the complexity of love like the streets of Tokyo and other cities through which the characters travel. The
I read this more than 6 months ago, and so the book is not fresh in my mind. However, it is one of those books that holds a special place in my heart, and I'm sure I'll read it again. It is a brilliantly written collection of short stories that elegantly weave together with overlapping characters. This book is haunting, but in a magical not-scary way. It had elements of fairy tale in it. It poignantly touched on themes like friendship, isolation, identity, love, pain, and growth. One of my all t ...more
This book is filled with so many tiny little beautiful lines, hidden in sad paragraphs. It's hard not to feel depressed after reading this, even though there are bright spots of hope every once in awhile. Every story in this book is interconnected, in the same way a movie like Love, Actually has multiple characters threading in and out of each other's lives. I sometimes found it difficult to remember which character was which, never quite sure what the author was alluding to or what connections ...more
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 fa ...more
Of the 2009 Nebula finalists I've read, this is easily the best. It's structured as a sequence of interrelated short character pieces, told from a variety of points of view, that unite into one beautiful and humane thread. Each story touches only very lightly on the others, some events are told separately from the perspective of each of the two participants. Part of the reward is identifying when that is happening.

The book starts off with the portrayal of each of the four members of a Suicide Cl
Joe Mccarthy
If at first the haphazard sections in Christopher Barzak's "The Love We Share Without Knowing" throw you off, don't worry -- he'll soon take your hand and explain every theme again and again in as simple a way as possible so you won't have any trouble seeing how they fit together.

Normally I enjoy when authors fragment narratives, but I only appreciated Barzak's decision to splinter his narrative in almost every section because if the individual sections were extended, they would be too dull to
Jack Hastings
Yes, there is more than a passing resemblance to Murukami in approach and certainly in setting, but Barzak is more accessible and poetic in prose. There is a tendeness toward his characters, to the human condition and the complications of love, that sets him apart. Highly recommended.
Marc Gerstein
The idea here – disappointments with love – has been done a couple of times before, or perhaps a few gazillion times. Still, it’s a theme that never gets old. Barzak definitely had some interesting takes on it. But I wonder if he fell victim to the pressure to try to treat this age-old topic in a new and unique way. Actually, he succeeded in coming up with an innovative approach, but that may have taken away more than it added.

He’s dealing with heavy topics here (including suicide and malevolent
My favorite to date--love everything about this book. The precise choice of words to convey a place and a people and a moment. I cannot say enough.
Bill Bruno
Christopher Barzak's novel, The Love We Share Without Knowing, is called a novel and barely qualifies as such. It's a series of braided short stories where there is just enough interaction between the characters and enough cause-and-effect to qualify. However, that does raise the risk if the stories are inconsistent, and they are in this case, effectively taking the guts out of the book.

Some of the stronger points are the characters of Kazuko, who forms a suicide pact with strangers similarly un
Steven Cole
This was an interesting book, not one which would have normally popped up on my radar. It *did* pop up, however, because it got nominated for the 2010 Nebula Award (an honor for science fiction or fantasy). The novel itself has only light touches of magical realism, so I'm not exactly sure why it was nominated.

But the book itself was still rather good. It's really a set of connected short stories (not really a novel, in my opinion), about young adults living in Japan (mostly foreign-born, but al
Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, Japanese edition.

I used to really like fantasy novels. In fact, my favorite book, The Lord of the Rings, is a fantasy. So I found it a bit puzzling how much I hate magic realism. I've had an epiphany of sorts: magic realism is a postmodern exposition of the proposition that there is no objective truth. Everybody's perspective is equally valid, no matter how delusional or self-evidently non-descriptive of reality. And I find this ridiculous - something happens, it c
Sofia Samatar
Sometimes you're not sure about a writer the moment you open a book. That happened to me with Christopher Barzak's The Love We Share Without Knowing. I love novels that are made of linked stories, so I was kind of on his side from the beginning, but I refrained from commitment through the first two stories in the book. This is not because the first two stories, "Realer than You" and "The Suicide Club," are not good stories. They are perfectly good stories, but they didn't reach into my soul and ...more
Dear God, what a depressing book. I mean, it was lovely, but just kick me in the gut a couple of times or something because OW.

The Love We Share Without Knowing is not technically a novel, although it's been classified as one by some sort of consensus that I was not a part of. The book is comprised of a series of interconnected stories, all with different narrators, different writing styles, and different types of POV. I suppose it's technically a novel because each story does depend on all the
Apr 22, 2010 Alisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: sff
This one took me a while.

It's a novel - truly, I think it is a novel, but it reads like short stories. And short stories mean that I have to keep starting all over again. I like the middles of books better than anything, keeping my head down and being immersed in the stream: that's what I read for.

But each time I'd finish a story, something about the next page would catch my eye-- the opening lines (Try reading "This is the truth. A blind man saw me on the train" and not going further) or the
First off, I have to be honest and say that this book was a bit of a departure from what I normally read, and I knew that thanks to Nymeth's review. One thing I've been trying to do since starting this blog, though, is to branch out and find new authors, genres and subject matter--basically, to grow as a reader. Most of the vignettes in Barzak's book are sad and poignant snapshots of people's lives in modern-day Japan. They weren't sad in so much that I cried, but they were thought-provoking and ...more
So previously on, I wrote about how much I disliked Barzak's debut novel, One for Sorrow. I enjoyed The Love We Share Without Knowing a great deal more, and would have given it 3.5 stars if that had been an option. Couple things:

1) I added this book to the to-read pile because it's nominated for a 2009 Nebula, but it's not particularly science fiction or even fantasy, it's fiction with a touch of magical realism. The one thing that still drives me crazy about Barzak is that his cha
These are some tough stories. But worth it.

One of my favorite narrative forms, Barzak's book is a series of intertwined short stories set in Japan. The themes are the usual big ones: love, life's purpose, place in and/or out of society, friendship, loneliness vs being alone, etc.

What I like about this form is how each story can stand well enough alone, but then becomes more powerful as elements echo back and forth with every story. Certainly this was the case here. Each character is a means to
Jake Forbes
The first time I started reading the book, I put it aside as my interest in Japan as a place of profound isolation, both as experienced by natives and expats, has waned after years of working around Japanese pop culture. I'm glad I picked up the book and read it again -- in one sitting no less -- as there are some very beautiful passages here. My favorite chapters, and the ones that ring most true to me, are those centered American English teachers, especially Hannah. As a whole, the network of ...more
Edward Rathke
This is a beautiful book about love and loss and trying to find one's place so far from home.

A novel about life in Japan from the perspectives of expatriates and Japanese, both trying, desperately, to understand the notions and motions of love, to find a place, an order in their own lives. Though at times deeply sad, it's also full of hope, especially in the lines that the title comes from. It's a beautiful scene that happens in a love motel.

I read this on my flight to South Korea where I now l
Jul 20, 2011 eva rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction, sff
this book honestly wasn't bad. there were many parts that i found touching and/or thought-provoking. i'm just burned out on 1) rambling, seemingly-unrelated vignettes that slowly coalesce to show OMG EVEN THOUGH WE'RE STRANGERS WE'RE ALL ACTUALLY CONNECTED!, 2) depressive, self-involved westerners' obsession with japanese culture, and 3) halfhearted magic realism.

(given the above, one might reasonably wonder why i even picked this book up. i've been reading less and less science fiction & f
I love just about everything Christopher Barzak writes. His prose is a river that I could just float forever on. This book, his second novel, has similar melancholy tone and focuses on many of the same themes (death, ghosts, alienation) as his first novel One For Sorrow but with more of an adult perspective. Told from the point of view of a variety of characters, in the form of several linked and merging stories, it brings a little bit of Japan to those of us who aren't living there.
The stories in this book are haunting, perhaps because they are told against a backdrop of suicide, lost love, alienation, and all the human problems that trouble our peace of mind and heart. That the locale is modern Japan and the descriptions of angst that accompany coming to terms with self and loss are played out in a place as lovely and historically complex as Japan increased my enjoyment of this work immensely.
This book is hard to describe. Most of the subject matter is what you might call depressing, but it's a beautiful depression. It is supposed to be a novel, but each chapter could be a short story in itself. There main character in each chapter is connected to other characters in other chapters, but the connections feel distant. People seem to be missing each other. In a magical, distant way. Oh, I give up. Just read the book!
This is an interesting collection of stories (though they are all interconnected) about what love is and what it means. I liked how all the stories were tied to each other and brought out some different dimensions from the story. I liked the mix of urban and rural, and the taste of Japan. I thought the author took an interesting look at what love is, but it wasn't as profound as I think he may have been going for.
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Christopher Barzak is the author of the Crawford Fantasy Award winning novel, One for Sorrow, which has been made into the Sundance feature film "Jamie Marks is Dead". His second novel, The Love We Share Without Knowing, was a finalist for the Nebula and Tiptree Awards. He is also the author of two collections: Birds and Birthdays, a collection of surrealist fantasy stories, and Before and Afterli ...more
More about Christopher Barzak...
One for Sorrow Before and Afterlives Birds and Birthdays The Language of Moths Wonders of the Invisible World

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“Nothing is more real than the masks we make to show each other who we are.” 73 likes
“The terrible thing about love is that it takes away your safety net, your balancing pole. Even the tightrope you walk upon will disappear beneath you, yet love expects you to keep walking anyway, arms outstretched, one foot after the other, on nothing more than air.” 29 likes
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