A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

Yiyun Li, Author . Random $21.95 (205p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6312-3

A beautifully executed debut collection of 10 stories explores the ravages of the Cultural Revolution on modern Chinese, both in China and America. "Extra" portrays the grim plight of Granny Lin, an elderly widow without a pension, whose job as a maid at a boarding school outside Beijing leads to a surprising friendship with one of her young charges, Kang. Li deftly weaves a political message into her human portraits: young Kang, the son of a powerful man and his now "disfavored" first wife, is an "extra"—that is, as useless in the new society as Granny Lin has become. A hollowed-out recluse in the collective apartment block of "Death Is Not a Bad Joke If Told the Right Way," Mr. Pang—once denounced by his work colleagues as being "a dog son of the evil landlord class"—still appears daily at a job where he is no longer even paid, and spends his home life counting grains of rice on his chopsticks. Even the charmed fatherless boy of "Immortality," his face so like Chairman Mao's that he's chosen to be the dictator's impersonator after Mao's death, falls from favor eventually, ending his days as a self-castrated parasite. These are powerful stories that encapsulate tidily epic grief and longing. Agent, Richard Abate. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/27/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 219 pages - 978-0-8129-7333-4
Open Ebook - 130 pages - 978-0-307-43051-9
Paperback - 205 pages - 978-0-00-719663-0
Paperback - 232 pages - 978-1-78083-293-7
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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