cover image Cocoon


Zhang Yueran, trans. from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang. World Editions, $19.99 trade paper (328p) ISBN 978-1-64286-105-1

Zhang (The Promise Bird) dazzles with an intricately crafted web of secrets centered on two childhood friends in China. Li Jiaqi returns as an adult to the home of her grandfather, a renowned surgeon, to take care of him as he’s dying. Soon after his death, she visits her estranged friend Cheng Gong. Over the course of a snowy night, they discuss their long history and what drove them apart. The story alternates between their perspectives: Jiaqi reminisces on her father, Muyuan’s, hatred of her grandfather, as well as Muyuan’s cold relationship with her mother and eventual alcoholism; and Gong recounts his lower-class upbringing with a vegetative grandfather and abusive grandmother. They discuss how they met and became unlikely friends when Jiaqi transferred to Gong’s school, but their relationship strained as their respective family troubles overwhelmed them and Gong learned a deadly secret about his grandfather’s condition. In lyrical prose, Zhang deeply humanizes her leads as they look to the past in an effort to understand themselves. It adds up to a remarkable and tragic story of family and community. (Oct.)