cover image Wednesday’s Child

Wednesday’s Child

Yiyun Li. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-60637-4

The protagonists of Li’s splendid and elegantly observed collection (after the novel The Book of Goose) desire to lead purposeful lives. “A Sheltered Woman” centers on Chinese immigrant and postpartum nanny Auntie Mei, who lives with her clients for the first month after childbirth. After her current client Chanel claims to have postpartum depression, she briefly imagines running away with the baby, but knows she’ll soon move onto the next family. In “Hello, Goodbye,” friends Katie and Nina remain in California after graduating from UC Berkeley in the 1990s to avoid returning to their respective homes in the Midwest. Years later, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Katie considers divorcing her older boorish husband and moves in with Nina’s Chinese American family in Kansas. “On the Street Where You Live” follows a woman named Becky who processes her conflicted feelings about motherhood, imagines having an affair with someone she meets at a diner, and recognizes the rift between her “commonplace” mind and that of her six-year-old son, who is autistic. Distinguished by their fully realized characters, nuanced narration, and striking portraits of everyday struggles, these stories find Li at the top of her game. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (Sept.)