“Are you okay?” That is the question asked, in one form or another, in nearly all of the stories that comprise Christopher Barzak’s new mosaic novel The Love We Share Without Knowing. It is a deceptively simple question. It is a question that you ask when you can sense that something is wrong, but you don’t know what, or what to do. It is a question that you may be asked when you are not behaving in accordance with someone’s idea of “normal.” And it is a question you might be asked when you are haunted. So many of Barzak’s characters are all three of these.
Teenage Elijah Fulton’s family moves to Japan due to his father’s job with Sony. Resentful of the move and missing America (“Genki desu ka? Are you okay?” asks his sister, p. 7), Elijah takes up running to “get away from everything” (p. 1). One day Elijah gets lost in the forest and finds a secluded shrine; a fox (or perhaps a kitsune, a Japanese fox spirit) emerges and leads him home. Some time later, Elijah rebels by taking the train to Tokyo. Again lost, and unable to identify the train home, Elijah is once again rescued, this time by a Japanese girl named Midori who is dressed as a fox. But when Elijah tries to contact Midori the next day, he learns from her father that she committed suicide more than a decade ago.