The Vagrants

Kinder Than Solitude

The surface of Yiyun Li's prose is deceptively still, but just beneath the surface is the sadness, pain and tragedy of three lives, each one driven into a kind of damaged solitude by the memory of the past. Her characters are portrayed with a harsh beauty, and one's emotions become deeply engaged with their fates, and by the mystery of a poisoned woman, a crime which has shaped - perhaps deformed - them all. This is an exceptional novel and Yiyun Li has grown into one of our major novelists.
- Salman Rushdie

 

Li is a high modernist. She infuses the traditional form with a fresh, rigorous beauty. Her novel is as clean and sharp and smart as a great piece of midcentury furniture, with that sense of permanence and increasing value.
- Mona Simpson, author of My Hollywood

 

Kinder Than Solitude is a stunning, dark, and beautiful book. Yiyun Li writes with characteristic genius and hard, clear-eyed insight about characters ravaged by family and culture who attempt to sterilize, to quarantine, even to abandon their own hearts in order to immunize themselves against the pains of loneliness and hope. Both their successes and failures at doing so are tragic and true and soul-wrenching. By the end of the book, the reader's own heart feels exposed, fragile, and all the more precious for having taken part in Li's mysterious, artful novel.
- Paul Harding, author of Tinkers and Enon

 

Yiyun Li works all sorts of terrific alchemy, surprises of character, and reversals of received wisdom that show us a world we thought was lonely and hopeless is in no way beyond consolation. These people in Kinder Than Solitude, all of them spiritual, political, and romantic orphans, lead lives so oppressed and constrained by their choices that your heart will surely break for them. Yet these same lives are rendered with such hard, gorgeous sympathy that all their brokenness and constraint is invested with a profoundly human majesty. By the end of this beautiful, thrilling novel, when their crime-inflected fates have played out, you'll want to stand up, sobbing, to cheer for them.
- Chris Adrian, author of The Great Night

 

I can't remember the last time I read a novel at once so relentless and elegant, so precise and ranging. The lives in Kinder Than Solitude are forever warped by a childhood tragedy, but Li won't let these tortured souls off the hook. This novel is fierce as a searchlight, blazing into every dark corner of its characters' psyches, and ours. I couldn't look away.
- Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

 

Yiyun Li has such an authentic voice, and she is not afraid of cutting to the bone to get to the truth of relationships and emotions. I believe Kinder Than Solitude is her best novel yet.
- Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan


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