In these spellbinding stories, Yiyun Li, Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winner and acclaimed author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Vagrants, gives us exquisite fiction filled with suspense, depth, and beauty, in which history, politics, and folklore magnificently illuminate the human condition.
In the title story, a professor introduces her middle-aged son to a favorite student, unaware of the students true affections. In A Man Like Him, a lifelong bachelor finds kinship with a man wrongly accused of an indiscretion. In The Proprietress, a reporter from Shanghai travels to a small town to write an article about the local prison, only to discover a far more intriguing story involving a shopkeeper who offers refuge to the wives and children of inmates. In House Fire, a young man who suspects his father of sleeping with the young mans wife seeks the help of a detective agency run by a group of feisty old women.
Written in lyrical prose and with stunning honesty, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl reveals worlds strange and familiar, and cultures both traditional and modern, to create a mesmerizing and vibrant landscape of life.
Despite Li's careful rendering of China, it does not require a strong interest in Chinese culture to savor Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (despite the liberal sprinkling of Chinese aphorisms throughout the stories). This is where the collection exceeds the most; though each narrative corresponds to social concerns that are pertinent to China, the characters and their dilemmas could take place in Oklahoma, Geneva, Siberia, Johannesburg, or some other foreign locale. Li's Spartan prose style, with limited description and dialogue, strengthens both the Chinese culture and the universal concerns of each story. Readers who want to relate to the characters they meet, more so than the locales, will be dazzled by Li's writing. I, for one, will remember the people in these stories for many years to come. (Reviewed by Elizabeth Whitmore Funk).
Elle - Lisa Shea
With serpentine beauty, Li’s stories wind around the wreckage of multiple marriages, lonely only children, and old men wedding women 30 years younger than them. From these seminal situations, Li’s characters, and perhaps her readers, emerge a bit sadder—and that much wiser.
New York Times - Francine Prose
What’s distinctive about Yiyun Li’s work is the contrast between its emotional intensity and its calm, measured tone, a literary voice that brings to mind Nabokov’s description of Chekhov’s narrative style: "The story is told in the most natural way possible ... the way one person relates to another the most important things in his life, slowly and yet without a break, in a slightly subdued voice."
[In] several tales, including the funny, bittersweet title story, adjustments are made, solutions are found, and friendship and love survive like plants pushing through asphalt.
Starred Review. The nine brilliant stories in Li's collection (after The Vagrants) offer a frighteningly lucid vision of human fate.
Starred Review. Further proof that Li deserves to be considered among the best living fiction writers.
The Guardian - Alex Clark
Trauma and loss afflict most of the characters in Yiyun Li's third book – her first collection of short stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, won the Guardian first book award in 2006, and a novel, The Vagrants, appeared here last year – but by the time we meet them, crisis is usually at some distance; what we witness is their slow attempts to adjust to radically altered circumstances.
The Independent - David Mattin
To read any one of these stories is to receive proof of Li's mastery. They are exquisitely made, and function with a vast, metronomic precision that eschews anything inessential.
Many of Yiyun Li's stories revolve around her childhood home of Beijing, China's capital city. Beijing (meaning Northern Capital) is one of China's four great ancient capitals, alongside Nanjing (meaning Southern Capital), Xi'an (meaning Western Peace) and Luoyang (known during the Tang dynasty as Dongdu, meaning Eastern Capital).
While the total population of the Beijing area is almost on a par with Shanghai's 19 million, it resists the frantic, hurried pace of its coastal counterpart. The city is crossed by several rivers and is also the northern terminus of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Beijing is home to Tiananmen Square, the largest city square in the world, which is located at the entrance to the Forbidden City. The Imperial Palace, known as the Forbidden City, was built during the Ming Dynasty in the early 15th century and was home to 24 emperors, and the ceremonial and...
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