A Thousand Years of Good Prayers: Book summary and reviews of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

Stories

By Yiyun Li

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2005,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

Brilliant and original, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers introduces a remarkable new writer whose breathtaking stories are set in China and among Chinese Americans in the United States. In this rich, astonishing collection, Yiyun Li illuminates how mythology, politics, history, and culture intersect with personality to create fate. From the bustling heart of Beijing, to a fast-food restaurant in Chicago, to the barren expanse of Inner Mongolia, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers reveals worlds both foreign and familiar, with heartbreaking honesty and in beautiful prose.

"Immortality," winner of The Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize for new writers, tells the story of a young man who bears a striking resemblance to a dictator and so finds a calling to immortality. In "The Princess of Nebraska," a man and a woman who were both in love with a young actor in China meet again in America and try to reconcile the lost love with their new lives.

"After a Life" illuminates the vagaries of marriage, parenthood, and gender, unfolding the story of a couple who keep a daughter hidden from the world. And in "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers," in which a man visits America for the first time to see his recently divorced daughter, only to discover that all is not as it seems, Li boldly explores the effects of communism on language, faith, and an entire people, underlining transformation in its many meanings and incarnations.

These and other daring stories form a mesmerizing tapestry of revelatory fiction by an unforgettable writer.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A beautifully executed debut collection of 10 stories explores the ravages of the Cultural Revolution on modern Chinese, both in China and America." - Publishers Weekly

"In her superb debut, Chinese American Yiyun Li pairs short stories about life in an increasingly capitalist yet still viciously repressive China with tales about Chinese immigrants and visitors to America." - Booklist

"No matter the theme - be it human redundancy in an overpopulated country or the complex nature of the parent-child relationship - these stories are complex, moving, and surprising. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries." - Library Journal

"Some ungainly plotting, but the author is one to watch." - Kirkus

"Yiyun Li is a true storyteller. Great stories offer us the details of life on the riverbanks: birth, family, dinner, and love, all framing the powerful flow of terror, death, political change, the river itself. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is as grand an epic and as tenderly private as a reader could wish." - Amy Bloom, author of Come to Me

"With great tenderness, tact, and humor, these stories open a world that is culturally remote from us, and at the same time as humanly intimate as if its people were our own family and their thoughts the thoughts that lie nearest our own hearts." - Marilynne Robinson, author of Gilead and Housekeeping

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Author Information

Yiyun Li Author Biography

Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing and came to the United States in 1996. Her stories and essays have been published in The New Yorker, Best American Short Stories, O Henry Prize Stories, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships and awards from Lannan Foundation and Whiting Foundation.

Her debut collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Guardian First Book Award, and California Book Award for first fiction; it was also shortlisted for Kiriyama Prize and Orange Prize for New Writers. Her novel, The Vagrants, won the gold medal of California Book Award for fiction, and was shortlisted for Dublin IMPAC Award. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, her second collection, was a finalist of Story Prize and shortlisted for Frank O'...

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