The Love We Share Without Knowing
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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.
“We are, after all, taught to live for the group, to be in harmony. That is the way here.” “But it’s not harmonious, is it?” he said. It felt as if he were trying to peel off her fingernails. But she couldn’t retaliate. There was no script for her to do so. She wouldn’t know what to say, how to say it. Instead she demurred and said that perhaps this was so for some people. Then she excused herself from the table, pretending that her cell was vibrating, and went to the bathroom. In the bathroom
talking to her in Japanese when they knew she didn’t understand a word of what they were saying. Every trip to the grocery store was an exercise in humiliation. She wouldn’t alienate herself from the only other English speakers around by telling them how stupid she’d been. And with a Frenchman who didn’t even have the decency to make up a more believable name. “I mean, come on, Jules,” she could hear Laurie, that do-gooder, chastising, “he might as well have called himself Jacques Cousteau!” She
before passing the phone back to Danny’s mother, who had a roast in the oven, she said, and had to go. There’d been the obligatory phone calls on Thanksgiving and Christmas after that, but nothing more after he met Kenji. All that had been months ago. His mother was here now, he reminded himself. He could hardly believe how much she’d aged since he last saw her. She looked like an old woman. Two years before, he’d thought she’d be eternally young. He still hadn’t spoken to his father or brother
orchard. It was autumn and the persimmons were growing to ripeness, their golden-orange globes fattening day by day, weighing down the tree limbs. Mother always picked baskets of them to bring back and cut into slivers for dessert. When I reached the end of the persimmon orchard and cabbage field, there was a small road that led out to the main road in town. On the other side of the road was a forest of bamboo and pine trees. I looked both ways, and when I was satisfied that all was safe, I
always cooking or cleaning or mending clothes; her father was always working or, on Sundays, watching sports on television; her older brothers constantly arguing while they played video games in a back bedroom. I could hear them back there even with their door slid shut. I learned from Kazuko and her family how to be human. I learned what it felt like to love others, to be loved, at least a little bit, even though I was not a member of their family. And from all that, I learned how to feel a