Tuesday, March 10, 2009

REVIEW: The Love We Share Without Knowing by Christopher Barzak

Love We Share coverGenre: Fiction
Pub Date: December 2008, Bantam Books
Format: Trade Paperback, 304 pages
Source/FTC Disclosure: I won a signed copy of this book from a contest the author was hosting on their blog. No other compensation was received and my opinions are my own.
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, 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 one. In a small village a disaffected American teenager stranded in a strange land discovers compassion after an encounter with an enigmatic red fox, and in Tokyo a girl named Love learns the deepest lessons about its true meaning from a coma patient lost in dreams of an affair gone wrong.

From the neon colors of Tokyo, with its game centers and karaoke bars, to the bamboo groves and hidden shrines of the countryside, these souls and others mingle, revealing a profound tale of connection—uncovering the love we share without knowing.

Exquisitely perceptive and deeply affecting, Barzak’s artful storytelling deftly illuminates the inner lives of those attempting to find—or lose—themselves in an often incomprehensible world.


Christopher Barzak was kindly giving away 10 signed copies of this book on his blog and I happened to win one. Of course, I have to thank Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot because I wouldn't have even known about the giveaway if it weren't for her!

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 full of emotion. I can't truthfully say that I enjoyed all of the subject matter, I mean, I don't generally like to read sad stories, but I couldn't put this book down. Barzak's beautiful writing grabbed me and kept me turning the pages because I simply had to know what happened to these people. The stories are so human that you often find yourself able to identify with someone in the story--some will of course hit home more than others. But I think we all have times where we feel loneliness and want nothing more than to have someone love us and understand us. Something else that was fascinating to me was how each of the stories was linked by one or more of the characters. 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."

 4 stars

Other reviews of The Love We Share Without Knowing:
Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot
My Cozy Book Nook


  1. I like reading Japanese fiction or fiction about Japan. Seems like this one could be a book right up my alley.

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed it too, Melissa, even if it's a departure from what you normally read. Actually, I'm glad you enjoyed it especially because it's a departure. If there's one thing that blogging has taught me it's to me a little more adventurous in my reading :)

    And you're right...the stories are so human.


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