Kinder Than Solitude

Kinder Than Solitude

3.32 (1,954 ratings by Goodreads)
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A profound mystery is at the heart of this magnificent new novel by Yiyun Li, "one of America's best young novelists" ("Newsweek") and the celebrated author of "The Vagrants, "winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Moving back and forth in time, between America today and China in the 1990s, "Kinder Than Solitude" is the story of three people whose lives are changed by a murder one of them may have committed. As one of the three observes, "Even the most innocent person, when cornered, is capable of a heartless crime."
When Moran, Ruyu, and Boyang were young, they were involved in a mysterious incident in which a friend of theirs was poisoned. Grown up, the three friends are separated by distance and personal estrangement. Moran and Ruyu live in the United States, Boyang in China; all three are haunted by what really happened in their youth, and by doubt about themselves. In California, Ruyu helps a local woman care for her family and home, avoiding entanglements, as she has done all her life. In Wisconsin, Moran visits her ex-husband, whose kindness once overcame her flight into solitude. In Beijing, Boyang struggles to deal with an inability to love, and with the outcome of what happened among the three friends twenty years before.
Brilliantly written, a breathtaking page-turner, "Kinder Than Solitude "resonates with provocative observations about human nature and life. In mesmerizing prose, and with profound insight, Yiyun Li unfolds this remarkable story, even as she explores the impact of personality and the past on the shape of a person's present and future.
Praise for "Kinder Than Solitude"
"This is an exceptional novel, and Yiyun Li has grown into one of our major novelists."--Salman Rushdie
"Yiyun Li infuses the traditional form with a fresh, rigorous beauty and a sense of permanence and increasing value.""--"Mona Simpson, author of "My Hollywood"
"[A] sleek, powerful novel about the weight of memory, the brunt of loss and the myriad ways the past can crimp the soul . . . Li gives us gifts of gorgeous prose. . . . Rarely are ordinary humans given such eloquent witness."--"The Washington Post"
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"What makes ["Kinder Than Solitude"] so vivid is its humanity. . . . It is an inquiry into how the past scars us, shaping present and future, and some deeds, once committed, can never be undone.""--Los Angeles Times"
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"[Li's] true gift . . . is old-fashioned storytelling [and] a sense that a life, a whole life, can be captured on pages.""--The Boston Globe"
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"A stunning, dark, and beautiful book . . . Yiyun Li writes with characteristic genius."--Paul Harding, author of "Tinkers" and "Enon"
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Product details

  • Hardback | 312 pages
  • 163 x 244 x 29mm | 626g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 1400068142
  • 9781400068142
  • 757,716

Review quote

"There's something about the poise, the tidiness, the seemingly effortless calm of Yiyun Li's writing that makes it easy to see her as an author who, like Jhumpa Lahiri, employs a Chekovian neutrality. . . . But look again. . . . There's a withering, vibrating sarcasm at work in the juxtaposition of national and personal tragedies."--"The New York Times Book Review"
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"Li turns an intricately plotted mystery into something more profound, one that queries the meaning of crime and punishment in the moral murk of contemporary China."--"The New Yorker"
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"Li is something of a connoisseur of loneliness and despondency--in this she is reminiscent of the . . . bard of solitude, William Trevor--and her book is rich in such elegant, fine-grained expressions of despair."--"The Wall Street Journal"
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"[Li] writes with acuity and nuance about ordinary lives set against broader cultural and social divides. . . . What makes ["Kinder Than Solitude"] so vivid is its humanity, the idea that nationality and history are less important than the vagaries of the heart. . . . "Kinder Than Solitude" is not tragic, despite the tragedy at its center; it is instead a novel of gradations, in which easy expectations of condemnation or forgiveness fall to pieces before the necessity of coming to terms. That this is true for every one of us is what gives the book its resonance."--"Los Angeles Times"
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"Characteristically nimble . . . philosophically inflected . . . Passages situated within the wet August heat of that long ago Beijing spark to life. . . . Li sketches the daily contours of this little enclave, her cast rich with supporting characters and a talent for conjuring a life with just a few lines of description."--"San Francisco Chronicle"
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"Despite its status as a sort of whodunit, "Kinder Than Solitude" is often most interesting for the things it is not: not a political novel, notwithstanding the backdrop of the Tiananmen Square massacre; not
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About Yiyun Li

Yiyun Li is the author of "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, The Vagrants, "and" Gold Boy, Emerald Girl." A native of Beijing and a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, the Whiting Writers' Award, and the "Guardian" First Book Award. "Granta" named her one of the best American novelists under thirty-five, and "The New Yorker "named her one of twenty U.S. writers under forty to watch. Her work has appeared in "The New Yorker, A Public Space, The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, " and elsewhere. She teaches writing at the University of California, Davis, and lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and their two sons.
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Rating details

1,954 ratings
3.32 out of 5 stars
5 13% (261)
4 30% (589)
3 37% (718)
2 15% (292)
1 5% (94)
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