The second collection of stories from Yiyun Li, author of the Guardian First Book Award-winning A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Vagrants. The stories in this collection, like the stories in A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, are mostly set in China. The country portrayed here is the China of the 21st century, where economic development has led to new situations unknown to previous decades: residents in a shabby apartment building witnessing in awe the real estate boom; a local entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist sheltering women in trouble in her mansion; a group of retired women discovering fame late in their lives as private investigators specializing in extramarital affairs; a young woman setting up a blog to publicize an alleged affair of her father.
Underneath the veneer of prosperity and opportunity, however, lie the struggles of characters trying to reorient themselves in the unfamiliar landscapes of modern China: a widower, reminiscing about his wife, confronts a young unmarried woman purchasing condoms in a pharmacy; a new wife makes a plea to have a baby with her husband who was to be executed only to discover that she has become an instant celebrity; a middle-aged couple in America, who, upon losing their only daughter, return to their hometown in China to hire a young woman as a surrogate mother. These characters' fates are affected as much by the historical moments in which they reside as by the choices they make. Yiyun Li's new collection of stories is a report from the frontline of a changing world, and confirms Li to be an unmissable writer.
"Li is extraordinary ... a storyteller of the first order ... each tale in this collection is as wild and beautiful and thorny as a heart... Li inhabits the lives of her characters with such force and compassion that one one cannot help but marvel at her remarkable talents." Junot Diaz "This is work that lasts. These sly women, punished men, these worried, worrying, surprising characters are held aloft and illuminated in Yiyun Li's strong and magical prose." Amy Bloom "In the most dismal circumstances and the most unlikely subjects: the old, the forgotten, the bookish, the unattractive; Yiyun Li has the rare ability to conjure hope. She writes with precision and delicacy about the Chinese diaspora and about the new China and in doing so, she writes about us all." Mona Simpson Praise for The Vagrants: 'Yiyun Li has written a book that is as important politically as it is artistically. "The Vagrants" is an enormous achievement.' Ann Patchett 'This is a book of loss and pain and fear that manages to include such unexpected tenderness and grace notes that, just as one can bear it no longer, one cannot put it down. This is not an easy read, only a necessary and deeply moving one.' Amy Bloom 'A starkly moving portrayal of China in the wake of the Cultural Revolution, this book weaves together the stories of a vivid group of characters all struggling to find a home in their own country. Yiyun Li writes with a quiet, steady force, at once stoic and heartbreaking.' Peter Ho Davies 'This novel -- a masterpiece of desolate intensity -- reads like reportage from hell!The novel is short on time but cast in scope!"The Vagrants" can put you in mind of Tolstoy or Chekhov!Its mass rallies wouldn't be out of place in Margaret Atwood's dystopia, "The Handmaid's Tale"!Most of all, though, its shut-in, shabby world of party tyranny, nonstop surveillance and loudspeakers spouting propaganda into the smoky air resembles Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" -- with a grim twist: Orwell's novel envisaged a nightmare that could happen; Li's describes one that did.' Peter Kemp, Sunday Times 'With its controlled understatement and scrupulous and unsparing lucidity, "The Vagrants" is a work of great moral poise and dignity. These days few writers can be said to possess gravitas; yet Yiyun Li exudes a seriousness that would be remarkable in one twice her age. As a chronicle of political betrayal under a modern dictatorship, "The Vagrants" is a minor classic; I have not read such a compelling work in years.' Ian Thomson, Independent 'This is a book of immense power and it will leave you reeling.' New Statesman
Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing, China, and came to the Unites States in 1996. She is the recipient of several prizes for her writing, including the Guardian First Book Award for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, and an M.F.A. from The University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Li's stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review and elsewhere, and her first novel, The Vagrants, was published in 2009. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons.