Reader Review: There is a metaphor that epitomizes The Love We Share Without Knowing. The concept of sensitive interdependence between different parts, similar to the Synchronicity Theory postulated by Carl G. Jung - that small differences in the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of that system - is a trope that Christopher Barzak applies surreptitiously - and very successfully at that! The metaphor of the Butterfly Effect proposes that simple decisions - even brash interactions - affect the lives of those around us, which in turn influence the lives of others, and so forth. Isn't it a frightening thought to think we may never know the best and worst things we've done in our lives because the consequences play out years later, or miles away? Initially, the novel appears to be a collection of 10 short stories ... and then ... rapidly ... it demonstrates the very effect of interdependence. All the stories are thematically connected. Characters inhabit the periphery of one another's lives, weaving in and out, including that of the main protagonists, the countries of Japan and America. Part of the wonder in reading this book lies in discovering the interconnections between the stories for yourself. Of simply being made aware of all the things we share without knowing. It is a subtle, fantastic journal of the lives of Japanese and American people living in Japan, particularly in or around Tokyo, drawing its inspiration from that country's mythology and folklore, at times appealing to nostalgia and conservative values as it attempts to examine the very things humanity share - love, loss, sorrow, hope, belonging, alienation, life ... and death. The book is difficult to categorize. Perhaps a tiny clue lies in the manner by which the Library of Congress cataloged the work, as psychological fiction. Considering the superabundance of psychological themes, this is undoubtedly true. But the categorization conjointly imprisons the fantastic elements of the novel in mere theoretical analysis, as if the reader should be the analyst, robbing it of its wondrous mystique. And to wholly classify it as science fiction in general and fantasy in particular, presents a myriad of different concerns. Fantasy, in many respects, abandons the traditional science fiction interest in technology, physics and space exploration in favor of the "soft sciences" like psychology and sociology or, as is the case with this book, of pure literary experimentation. At best one can probably describe the novel as "urban fantasy" - the fantasy elements are realized in our own world rather than in the imagined one of the more traditional sword-and-sorcery type. But it is more than all that. The book's appeal - to paraphrase the science fiction editor, David Hartwell - lies in its combination of the rational, the believable, with the miraculous. It is, therefore, first of all, a literary work. Sadly, I fear and suspect the book won't be for everyone. The fantastic elements are "soft," situated mostly in the realm of ghosts, indubitably not the major component in the whole, but an important key to how the story is being told. We also meet a shape-shifting fox, Japanese curses and a blind man, who regains his sight, if only by imparting the blindness to the unfortunate young man he sees on the train - not without reason, mind you (for there are no coincidences). Devoid of sentiment and with perspicacious insight into the human condition, and with beautifully simplistic and lyrical prose, each sentence following from the preceding with beautiful clarity, Barzak decorates the labyrinthine themes of longing, loneliness, intimacy, love, grief and death, ever thrusting the reader - in much a similar fashion to Haruki Murakami - towards authentic moments of what feels like a very real life, of being alive and feeling what that all implies, of finding a place that feels like home, of longing to belong and searching for the one elusive love. For many who came to Japan to perhaps finding just that, they realize that home has always been the country and the home they left (behind). For others, like Kazuko - when she (finally) understands and dresses in her dead mother's yukata - belonging infers an embrace of "tradition." At a ceremony where the Japanese honor their dead, where graves are cleaned and food and flowers are laid out, it is said that the ghosts of the departed return. We find here a memorable scene, not of ghosts returning, but rather departing, the symbolism instilling a sense of wonder ... and hope. In the context of the telling, it is a powerful, liberating moment. Life, as it does, goes on. To live, despite sorrow, which - and there is no paradox here - makes living a richer thing. Alienation is not only reserved for the "outlanders." On a remote road amid fallow rice fields, four young Japanese friends take their own lives, and in that moment they become almost as one - finally "belonging" somewhere and to something. Barzak, frighteningly and intelligently, shows that by consciously going towards death, we build the better vessel, as the passage to it from the failing flesh can be without fear, fortuitous ... and easy. Death need not be conceived as "anti-life" - it may be a demand for an encounter with absolute reality, a demand for a fuller life through the death experience. However, Kazuko will survive the attempt (the only one to do so), and becomes "haunted" by the ghosts of here friends ... and death - ultimately - is no longer an easy matter. Dying is a rendering business, ugly, cruel and full of suffering. We get to see that there are deaths that are indeed wrong. In the process Barzak, with eloquent and sometime melancholic style, reveals a staggering secret: that only that which can destroy itself is truly alive. But it does not have to be through suicide. Death is always going on, and so we are committing suicide as we live. We call it radical change, growth, renewal and we, like Kazuko, feel its concomitant: loss and remorse. They bring to your individual plight not judgment, but empathy. All the characters deal with their own brand of humanness in one way or another. In a very real sense, they are all phantoms, floating disconnected through an alien world, malcontent with what life has to offer. It seems an aimless wander in a world where the characters are inconspicuous, even invisible (some wishing to be) - like real ghosts with unfinished business, waiting to finally "cross over" - or awake from a coma. Barzak sets up the consequent "healing" (for some) behind the curtain of wings and makes us wonder about our responsibility towards other people. Even though we are not responsible for one another's lives (or deaths) - each person's life (and death) is his own, after all - we are nonetheless responsible to our involvements with other people, especially in a world constantly warping itself beyond any reason, alienating for the most part many individuals as they plod on with life, slaves to the rhythm of very strange and incomprehensible tunes where only a connection with other people seemingly makes life bearable ... and meaningful. The reading experience draws the reader into the healing process of most of the characters, making him/her part of the drama of life of each, becoming almost a reflection, as if in a dream. Each dream, then, has its own dramatic structure, and the series of dramas within each of the 10 stories magically unfolds the Big Idea - "Here I am," as an expression of our own individual need for belonging ... and love. The Love We Share Without Knowing is one long mythological epic in which the reader actively takes part through the associations with his/her own life acquaintances. Dipped into oblivion by the reading experience, one emerges without knowing precisely what has happened - one only knows that one has changed. "The fireflies glow off and on in the mist-covered fields, calling out, Here I am, waiting for another light to appear in the darkness. Here I am, one calls to another. Come find me. Here I am."
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.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: The Love We Share Without Knowing|
|Release Date: 11-25-2008|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
This eBook download is available in the following formats:
|Parent title||The Love We Share...|
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The Love We Share Without Knowing
Realer Than You
Everything you think you know about the world isn't true. Nothing is real, it's all made up. 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.
My name is Elijah Fulton, and unlike so many things, this actually happened. It happened in Japan at the beginning of the twenty-first century, when I was sixteen and my parents forced me to leave America. It happened in Ami, a suburb an hour away from Tokyo, on a trail in a bamboo forest.
I was running that day, as usual, because running and biking were the only ways I could get anywhere. You had to be eighteen to drive in Japan, so all of a sudden I was a kid again. Without a car, I was stuck in our tiny house with my thirteen-year-old sister and my mom as they learned how to cook Japanese food with Mrs. Fujita, the wife of my dad's boss. Mrs. Fujita was always calling from the kitchen for me to come taste whatever weird thing they were making in there, like, "Come taste this delicious eel, Elijah!" and I wasn't having any of that. So I ran to get away from everything. From my parents and their friends, from my little sister. From Ami. If I could have, I would have run away from Japan altogether.
When I first started running, I didn't know where the roads led to or even in which direction they traveled, so to be safe I'd circle the apartment complex next to our house, and every day I'd run a little further. By the end of my first week I made it to the end of our road, and a few days after that I crossed over