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The Love We Share Without Knowing

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  474 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
On a train filled with quietly sleeping passengers, a young man’s life is forever altered when he is miraculously seen by a blind man. In a quiet town an American teacher who has lost her Japanese lover to death begins to lose her own self. On a remote road amid fallow rice fields, four young friends carefully take their own lives—and in that moment they become almost as o ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 25th 2008 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2008)
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K. Lincoln
Aug 26, 2009 K. Lincoln rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 21, 2009 Greyweather rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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.
Sep 04, 2012 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  (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 ;-)
Jan 30, 2015 Gerhard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 19, 2010 Lisa rated it it was amazing
"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
Dec 31, 2010 Logan rated it it was amazing
"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
Apr 30, 2016 Chloe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: magic-books
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
Oct 15, 2016 david rated it did not like it
Shelves: unable-to-finish
I know little, but what I do know is that there is no love between us.

Dec 20, 2016 Ray rated it really liked it
A book written with such poetry and life almost like each chapter had it's own separate heartbeat. It grew louder and louder begging to be heard. By the end of the book each beat that was separated once now beat in unison so loud it can be heard long after you turn the last page.
Jun 09, 2016 Jefferson rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-books
I could be flip and say I hated this book, and that wouldn't be too far from the truth. I read it for a book club, otherwise I would have put it down after a few chapters. I'm glad I stuck it out, though, as the last two chapters were actually pretty good, and I also realized a little bit more about the structure of the novel as a whole. There is some craft here, some intent to the writing.

The Love We Share Without Knowing (great title, by the way) is a series of interlocking stories set in Jap
Mar 16, 2010 Megan rated it liked it
Shelves: courier, 2010, adult
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
Jun 16, 2010 Bookmarks Magazine rated it liked it
Shelves: july-aug-2010
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
Brad Medd
Mar 20, 2016 Brad Medd rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
'The Love We Share Without Knowing' is a richly woven series of narratives surrounding communication, love, and the complications of identity created by our own human nature. Barzak's talent for articulating with few words what I've found impossible with many is what sets his work apart from anything else I've read. The range of feeling and emotional depth that hides beneath each sentence is astonishing. For the second time, Barzak's work has been the hand that reaches out to my soul, not only o ...more
Joe Mccarthy
Apr 01, 2015 Joe Mccarthy rated it it was ok
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
Oct 17, 2012 Jack Hastings rated it really liked it
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.
Andrew Bernstein
May 17, 2016 Andrew Bernstein rated it really liked it
5 star title! Backed up by a good read. Very much enjoyed many of the intertwined stories in this novel (is it really one?). Some magical realism and a Japanese setting make the comparison to murakami obvious though this stands on its own.
Karen Cremean
Jun 08, 2016 Karen Cremean rated it it was amazing
Melancholy, well written.
I cannot describe this as a series of short stories, they are more like vignettes, powerful scenes showing the sometimes subtle, sometimes intense relationships between people.
Jennifer L.
Jul 20, 2016 Jennifer L. rated it it was amazing
I read this a few years ago. I loved it, and still consider it one of the most beautiful and haunting books I've ever read. I'm definitely due for a reread.
Sep 05, 2016 Brandi rated it really liked it
This book is so beautiful. The descriptions of Japanese culture and the way the characters lives intersected were masterfully done. It's a story of love and death and I enjoyed every chapter.
Aug 29, 2013 Annette rated it it was amazing
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.
Bart Everson
Feb 13, 2016 Bart Everson marked it as partially-read
Shelves: octavia-sf
Well-crafted, sensitively observed, put me to sleep.
Dec 31, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I really loved these stories- they were engrossing and and absorbing. I wanted to know more, to be there and that's the best kind of feeling you can get from a book. Interwoven stories can be tricky but this was beautifully written.
Marc Gerstein
Mar 09, 2015 Marc Gerstein rated it liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
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
Mar 20, 2010 Kelly rated it liked it
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
Sep 22, 2014 Ashley rated it really liked it
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
Feb 02, 2015 Tomislav rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars, fantasy
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
Sofia Samatar
Mar 11, 2012 Sofia Samatar rated it really liked it
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
Jul 11, 2016 Monique rated it really liked it
This book still lingers in my mind, despite some weeks having passed since I completed it. Possibly, I should have given it 5-stars because it is one of those that I could read again just for the haunting beauty of it. I was fortunate to come across this as a Book Hub buy for my Kindle. I love reading about the Japanese culture, and from reviews I've read, this author gets it right. It is certainly interesting reading about Americans attempting to immerse themselves in the culture. "I wanted the ...more
Bill Bruno
Apr 05, 2015 Bill Bruno rated it it was ok
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
Jun 08, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
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
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Christopher Barzak is the author of the Crawford Award winning novel, One for Sorrow, which was 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. His third novel, Wonders of the Invisible World, is a 2016 Stonewall Honor Book. He is also the author of Before and Afterlives, which won the ...more
More about Christopher Barzak...

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“Nothing is more real than the masks we make to show each other who we are.” 87 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.” 31 likes
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