Monday, March 23, 2009

The Love We Share Without Knowing

Barzak, Christopher. 2008. The Love We Share Without Knowing.

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.

This isn't your traditional novel. If you know that going in, I think you will appreciate it more. Think of it more as a collection of loosely woven short stories. Some stories are more 'connected' than others. The stories share a common thread or two--mainly that of theme. To sum it up in one word: Humanity. What it means to be human, to experience the ups and downs, highs and lows of being human. Love. Loss. Pain. Anger. Bitterness. Frustration. Disappointment. Heartache. Homesickness. Loneliness. Some stories are darker than others. Some seem to be without hope or redemption. Others are more uplifting. What they all have in common, however, is the Barzak touch. He, quite simply, has a way with words. Even if you don't like where the story is going, he keeps you so in love with the words on the page, that you just have to keep reading.

Love isn't what we think. It's a living, changing creature that takes as many shapes as the fox women in the old tales my mother used to tell me. Love comes in and sometimes she's a woman who woos you with soft words and promises. Love comes in and sometimes he's a man with a strong smile and a grip on your shoulder. Love comes in and sometimes it's something beyond the usual circumstances of two people becoming one. It can slip through our hands before we even realize what it is we're holding. (97)

"But sweetheart," said her mother, "the things you don't speak of are the loudest things you say." (146)

We wear our masks in between dreams. It's one of the rules of living here. You can't not wear a mask in those spaces of time. But if you want, you can change the one you've been given. All you have to do is be strong and make it so. (188)

Have you seen Because of Winn Dixie? Do you remember the scenes where the librarian is sharing hard candy with Opal? And Opal is then sharing this candy with others? How every single person has a different way of describing how the candy tastes? That's what this novel was like. That's what this novel was trying to do, in my humble opinion, capture the 101 different flavors of life itself.

All of the stories are set in Japan.

My favorite chapter? Perhaps "If You Can Read This You're Too Close." Listen to how it starts off, "This is the truth. A blind man saw me on the train." Within this story there is a beautiful exchange from which the title of the book comes. But I'm not going to share it here! If you think this one is for you, I encourage you to pick it up and read it for yourself!

I won't lie and say I think this novel is for everyone. The book deals in quite a few chapters with the subject of suicide and the seeming 'hopelessness' of life. (I personally did NOT like the chapter with the suicide club. I do not buy into suicide as a good idea for solving life's hiccups.) It is an adult book, and some of the stories may not be appropriate for younger readers. (Though I think most teens could handle it just fine.)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Ana S. said...

One of the things I liked the most was that even though some of the characters feel hopeless, the book as a whole was not hopeless in the end. Not for me, anyway. You're so right about the writing..I actually forgot to mention that in my post. But some of the passages you picked were favourites of mine too.

Becky said...

I didn't think it was hopeless through and through just a story here and there. I liked it as a whole. There were chapters that I just loved and adored. And one that I just did not care for at all. And a few that were very lovely. So I liked it overall.

Anonymous said...

While I haven't read this particular book, your first quote made me sit up. It sounded like one of the stories I read yesterday (and the author fits). In checking, I realised that the short story version I have and the one you shared aren't 100% the same, but all the same. I think it might be interesting to pick this book up just to see what other differences there are between the two. It helps that it sounds lovely. ^-^

chrisa511 said...

Oh this does sound good and like something I would like! It does sound like it wouldn't be for everyone...but it is for me I think! Great review as always Becky :)

Debi said...

What a wonderful review, Becky! If I hadn't already bought the book after reading Nymeth's review, I certainly would have bought it now.

Kailana said...

I had planned to read this the other weekend but I didn't have as much reading time as I was hoping for. Hopefully I will get a chance to read it soon!

Unknown said...

I bought this after reading Nymeth's review.

Suicide is a very common theme in Japanese books, so I'm not put off by this, as long as it is handled well. I'm looking forward to reading it, as I love reading books set in Japan.

Sandra said...

I have to read this now. I never get depressed by fiction, no matter the subject. And I actually enjoy reading about suicide and serious problems. That and I am a sucker for a lyrical title, so this is now on my tbr list. Thanks for reviewing it.