KINDER THAN SOLITUDE by Yiyun Li
Kirkus Star

KINDER THAN SOLITUDE

KIRKUS REVIEW

The lives of three teenage Chinese friends, irreversibly altered by the horrible, lingering poisoning of an older girl, are the subject of the bleak yet penetrating novel from PEN/Hemingway award winner Li.

The catalyst for Beijing-born Li’s (Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, 2010, etc.) unsparing novel, set partly in 1989, partly some two decades later, is 15-year-old Ruyu, a contained, empathy-free orphan raised by two religious women and sent to relatives in Beijing in preparation for college. The Beijing family has an older daughter, Shaoai, and lives in a community that includes Moran and Boyang, who are in the same school and grade as Ruyu and show her their city. Moran, optimistic and kindly, has always hoped for a future with Boyang, the clever son of academic parents. Shaoai, 22, is a rebel whose involvement in a recent democratic protest will shortly lead to punishment: expulsion from university, her future ruined. Shaoai is hostile to Ruyu and sexually molests her. After a visit to the university laboratory where Boyang’s parents work, Shaoai falls seriously ill from chemical poisoning and will suffer 21 more brain-damaged years. But who poisoned her? Opening with Shaoai’s death, Li tracks the three erstwhile friends, now scattered across the U.S. and China, each isolated in a different way. The whodunit is less mysterious than their interconnected fates.

Li’s chilly, philosophical storytelling offers layers of unsettling yet impressive insight into family legacies and cultural dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6814-2
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2014




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