The Love We Share Without Knowing, which was nominated for a Nebula Award, is the second novel from Christopher Barzak, after One for Sorrow ( Selection Jan/Feb 2008).
The Story: A "mosaic novel" in the tradition of Ray Bradbury (think The Martian Chronicles or Dandelion Wine), The Love We Share Without Knowing tells an interconnected series of stories about young people in contemporary Japan. Some of them are aimless Americans partaking in that new rite of passage, teaching English abroad. Others are young Japanese who are adrift for various reasons. But these characters have more than ennui in common: each story has a casual relation to the fantastic, whether it portrays the ghost of a Japanese girl in the form of a fox or a man whose loneliness expresses itself in a kind of contagious blindness.
Bantam. 304 pages. $12. ISBN: 9780553385649
"The Love We Share Without Knowing is a beautiful and only lightly fantastic book. ... It looks at friendship, love, and alienation. In its depictions of both Japanese and American citizens living in Japan, it illuminates culture and cultural difference." Karen Burnham
"I am coming to the conclusion that Barzak could be one of the best new writers that America has produced in recent years. Not one of the best science fiction writers or fantasists; one of the best writers, period." Paul Kincaid
"The Love We Share Without Knowing would make an excellent gift from a beleaguered youth to his or her parents, an indirect way of saying, ‘This is what I'm going through! Try to understand!' Or, conversely, a great gift from a parent to a disaffected 20-something who seems to have lost his or her way in life: ‘Yes. I know what you're going through.'" Carolyn See
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.