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Little Gods: A Novel

Little Gods: A Novel


Little Gods: A Novel

valutazioni:
4/5 (45 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
9 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jan 14, 2020
ISBN:
9780062988348
Formato:
Audiolibro

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Descrizione

Combining the emotional resonance of Home Fire with the ambition and innovation of Asymmetry, a lyrical and thought-provoking debut novel that explores the complex web of grief, memory, time, physics, history, and selfhood in the immigrant experience, and the complicated bond between daughters and mothers.

On the night of June 4th, a woman gives birth in a Beijing hospital alone. Thus begins the unraveling of Su Lan, a brilliant physicist who until this moment has successfully erased her past, fighting what she calls the mind’s arrow of time. When Su Lan dies unexpectedly 17 years later, it is her daughter Liya who inherits the silences and contradictions of her life. Liya, who grew up in America, takes her mother’s ashes to China — to her, an unknown country. In a territory inhabited by the ghosts of the living and the dead, Liya’s memories are joined by those of two others: Zhu Wen, the woman last to know Su Lan before she left China, and Yongzong, the father Liya has never known. In this way a portrait of Su Lan emerges: an ambitious scientist, an ambivalent mother, and a woman whose relationship to her own past shapes and ultimately unmakes Liya’s own sense of displacement.

A story of migrations literal and emotional, spanning time, space, and class, Little Gods is a sharp yet expansive exploration of the aftermath of unfulfilled dreams, an immigrant story in negative that grapples with our tenuous connections to memory, history, and self.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jan 14, 2020
ISBN:
9780062988348
Formato:
Audiolibro

Disponibile anche come...

Disponibile anche come libroLibro


Informazioni sull'autore

Meng Jin was born in Shanghai and lives in San Francisco. A Kundiman Fellow, she is a graduate of Harvard and Hunter College. Little Gods is her first novel.

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Cosa pensano gli utenti di Little Gods

3.9
45 valutazioni / 13 Recensioni
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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (5/5)
    Meng Jin’s debut novel, Little Gods, is such a gorgeously constructed story. It’s built on a sturdy frame, decorated beautifully, but it will have some readers scratching their heads saying, but what is it? What does it mean? And that is to say that it is mysterious, clever, thought-provoking, and may leave you with several questions.Su Lan is a brilliant physicist with an eye always to the future. Liya is gifted with language and searches for answers about her mother’s past. That’s all you need to know about this novel. It is the marriage of science and language, the meeting of past and future. And though this novel featured less hard science than I’d expected up until the final moments, it never ceased to be intelligent. Equally, the lush language and the perfectly joined story elements came together into a story was that altogether very moving.Little Gods is a poetic and intellectual debut that may have a little trouble finding its audience. It’s one for those who don’t mind having to put some thought into their read, but who also hope to experience emotion. Personally, I’d recommend it to readers of Light from Other Stars and Asymmetry.
  • (4/5)
    How much do we really know about our parents? Most likely, its not until they are gone that we want to know more about them. Su Lan, a brilliant physicist gives birth to Liya in a Beijing hospital at the same time her husband caught up in the student protests disappears. Liya has a lonely childhood as her mother gets a visa to continue her education in America and they move from place to place. They grow apart and Liya is at college when she hears of her mother’s death. Returning to China, she learns more about her mother and her father. Told in the different voices of people who knew her mother, the story is both sad and uplifting in how Liya learns who her father is and attempts to return her mother’s ashes to her grandmother.
  • (4/5)
    This book took a while to settle into but the reward in the end was worth it. Su Lan is our protagonist in a sense, but her story is told by those who knew her: a close friend, her husband, and ultimately her daughter. A brilliant and enigmatic physicist, Su Lan is concerned with time as the fourth dimension of the universe, as it manifests beyond our limited human ability to experience it. Obsessed with the notion that time may move backwards, that we can erase the past, Su Lan immigrates from China to the U.S. with her small daughter a few years after the June Fourth protests and the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Su Lan's story unfolds through the eyes and experiences of our three narrators, most powerfully through that of her daughter who returns to Beijing after Su Lan's death in search of her father. Meng Jin's writing is beautiful -- only occasionally overwrought -- and she deftly explores and illuminates the human need for a secure sense of place in both space and time, the human desire to feel confident about "where one comes from." This need plays out in geography but also in relation to parentage and history and culture, and it is in these dimensions that the novel's substance is most powerfully moving. Su Lan's motivation never quite solidifies for us but the motivations of our three narrators provide enough grounding for the novel's arc and meaning. We witness the tremendous impact of an event as momentous as the Tiananmen Square Massacre on the day-to-day lives of Chinese citizens, those for whom its larger political implications were of little interest. And we witness the ultimate conciliation with past and future, time and space, autonomy and dependency in Su Lan's daughter's final trip to her grandmother's village. This is not a perfect novel but it's a strong debut effort and a compelling introduction to an author worth watching.I received this ARC from Early Reviewers.
  • (3/5)
    Little Gods, Meng Jin, authorIn 1989, In Bejing, on the evening of the Tianamen Square massacre, Su Lan arrives at a hospital. She is in labor. Her husband, Yongzong arrives with her, but he seems to be there reluctantly. When she is admitted, he leaves. He went to Beijing for an Oncology conference, but his interests had recently turned more toward political activism,. He was against the policies of the government. He resented Su Lan’s restraint and disinterest in his activities. When his side is defeated, the students are also defeated. The dictator survives. Su Lan finds herself left alone with an infant daughter she names Liya. She has no idea about where her husband is or if he will return. She never does see him again. She becomes depressed and relies on the disabled woman who is her next door neighbor. Zhu Wan is used to caring for those who are depressed. Her disabled husband had been despondent toward the end of his short life. Although her own body was disfigured, causing her to limp, her husband, who was blind, only witnessed her kindness toward him. She was not always kind to others, however, having been bullied, stared at and rejected for most of her life.For a few years, Zhu Wan and Su Lan share a life. Then, one day, Su Lan announces that they will leave for America. She asks Zhu Wan to keep the apartment for her or her husband, should he return. She vows that one day, she would return. However, in 2007, a woman who resembles Su Lan appears instead. It is Liya. Su Lan has died. Su Lan and Liya had not gotten along that well and when Su Lan ended her life, Liya became determined to discover her own history. Who was her father? Why did her mother never speak of him? Why hadn’t she tried harder to find out about her heritage while her mother was alive?The chapters alternate, featuring one character or another as the story unfolds. The history is very interesting, but the story developed a little too slowly for me. It was sometimes tedious, since although the book is really interesting, it doesn’t draw the reader back consistently. Still, it is written in a far more literary style than many books today and is pleasant just to read it for the composition of the sentences! They are crafted well and the language is never offensive. There are no indiscreet sexual scenes written simply to titillate the reader, and every word feels chosen for the sentence. It is a slow read, but a good read.
  • (3/5)
    Little Gods by Meng Jin is a story of woman who is immersed in the science of "time". Her husband deserts her in China before her child is born, and the little girl's life is lonely. As an adult she returns to China to find her father. This is a story of relationships between people, our inner needs, and how in the end, it's the story of life.
  • (4/5)
    Meng Jin's debut novel Little Gods is a fascinating multi-perspective narrative about a physicist named Su Lan, her efforts to define herself, and the lasting imact of her ambition on those closest to her.One interesting aspect of the novel is that while so much of the narrative is about Su Lan and how she strives to be percieved, none of the perspectives used to tell the story are actually her own. This raises an important thematic question of how well someone can truly know another person – readers are only shown fragments and reflections of Su Lan and her life.I'll admit, I didn't find most of the characters to be particularly likeable, but they are well-realized and believably complicated and contradictory individuals (ocassionally infuriatingly so). In general, while the novel is a slow read, the pacing did seem to drag significantly and lose its forward momentum at times. Still, parts of Little Gods are truly thought-provoking and compelling.
  • (4/5)
    The novel centers around Su Lan, a brilliant physicist who has a baby during the Tiananmen Square conflict. Told through several people's perspectives but not her own, we learn about Su Lan, her life, and how she navigates her life as a scientist, a mother, a wife, and a daughter. This book kept me engaged and interested...well done!
  • (4/5)
    Liya is on her way to China with her mother's ashes. Born in China, Liya doesn't know her home country or why she and her mother, Su Lan, left for America. Seeking to understand her own past, and her mother's, Liya's journey is intertwined with memories told by Zhu Wen, the last women to know Su Lan, and Yongzong, the father Liya never knew.Though the narrative switches character, each is well-developed and incredibly real. A modern history of China and protests underlies the story. There is also the traditional story of migration and lost pasts. Meng Jin's debut is rich and heartwarming, despite heartbreak, and I look forward to her future novels.
  • (4/5)
    Review of ARC via LTERWhat, exactly, are "little gods"? Meng Jin provides an ambitious definition, fittingly, for her ambitious novel. They are the youth of China who "hunger for revolution, any Great Revolution, whatever it stands for, so long as where you stand is behind its angry fist. Desperate to turn their own wishes and despairs into material that might reset the axes of the world."The novel begins in a Beijing hospital where Zhu Wen, destined to become Sulan's only known friend, is a nurse in the maternity ward on June 4, 1989, the day of the Tiananmen Square massacre that did reset the axes of the Chinese world. Sulan is giving birth to her only child, a daughter, Liya, while around her, throughout the hospital, injured and dead pile up. Her husband, Yongzong, flees into the night, never to be seen again.From that point on the book is filled only with longing for what the characters will never have, despair at their fates and betrayal of friends. Merging Sulan's theoretical physics -- really, fancies -- about marrying thermodynamics with time to explain a four-dimensional space, Meng looses a mental landscape that warps from one character to another as the pov changes, while remaining in a sort of overwrought fugue state that each suffers as they disconnect or semi-connect with reality. This is the most ambitious aspect of the novel -- Meng's attempt to make the reader "live" each character's attempts to change their "wishes and despair into material," or, put another way, to change their personal lives in order to find themselves in a reality to their liking.Only nurse Zhu remains centered within the maelstrom of character and event, a stolid representation of Old China, its vast expanse of historical memory and tradition, complete with her belief in ancestral ghosts. Sulan represents the devastation intellectuals always suffer during societal upheavals. Her journey from impoverished village at the edge of starvation to near miraculous rise to the pinnacle of abstract thought produces no satisfying personal rewards for her. Instead, it destroys her ability to deal with the truth of a Newtonian existence. Intellectuals are alwsys the first targets of revolutionaries, even when those uprisings are the product of intellectuals in revolt. Her one victory in life is getting herself and her child to the USA.Daughter Liya returns to China after the death of her mother, hoping to learn who her father is and what happened to him. Her Odyssey can be seen as a journey of filial duty and an attempt to reconcile her feelings for her mother with her longings to know the unknown story of her father. To establish a firm identity when living in two worlds. I found the relatively short time Meng spent with her young heroine to be the most rewarding of all the life stories she tells in the novel.Yongzong, absented husband and mystery father, is a cipher throughout -- does he belong only to the present, or is he emblematic of the unknown future? His relationship with his boyhood friend Zhang Bo is enigmatic and shrouded in complexity. On the other hand, Bo who is all heart and tender understanding, is not cryptic at all. In fact, he can be viewed as the true husband and father in the novel, in spite of neither role ever being formalized. Yongzong, IMO, fails to achieve the monumental purpose Meng seems to have set for him. "In the universe, there exist objects that cannot be seen or have not been seen. . .that assure us of their existence simply by the way they affect the behavior of nearby lesser objects. . .it is the inevitable attraction and movement of that which surrounds a mass that secures its position among real things." For Liya, this security never results.I am impressed by the virtuosity on display in this book, but I can't admit to feeling the satisfaction that comes at the end of a read when I know that I've read a successful novel. Does Little Gods succeed? For me, there are two major problems -- not flaws. The introduction of theoretical physics and its extension into fantastic speculation did not work for me. I failed to unravel why it was given its importance of place in the book, yet failed to produce a similar payoff. Secondly, the entire weight of the novel is sustained by emotional turmoil, fracture, suffering, and dissatisfaction. It is burdensome to this Western reader but may have the approval of a Chinese/Asian reader. In sum, "Little Gods" is a frightening picture of a segment of humanity, leaving this reader to draw one conclusion. The little gods must be crazy.However, to my mind there is one flaw, in the end after closing the book, only two of the minor characters seemed real to me, nurse Zhu and Professor Zhang Bo. Everyone else remained emotional ephemera beyond any physical existence. Still this is a stunning attempt to merge science, emotion, ghosts, gods, and material existence into a panorama of China's emergence from communism to capitalism and its effects on lesser living humans.
  • (2/5)
    Little Gods is an ambitious novel that attempts to put together the story of a Chinese family which comes apart in conjunction with the Tiannamen Square uprising. The novel jumps around by section in both time and perspective, as different characters tell different parts of the story. At times, this makes for a disjointedness that--while I believe intentional--is not sufficiently resolved. Though the ultimate plot line is clear by the end, the motivations felt to me to be more opaque. The novel often attempts to portray the difficulty in understanding across time and language, and at many points, the author presents Chinese words and characters an attempts to explain how their use and meaning vary and are ambiguous. Unfortunately to me, these seemed didactic and really didn't enhance the story. What I did enjoy was the way the diversity of China is portrayed, between classes, dialects, urban/rural, and even between the cities of Shanghai and Beijing. I feel like I did come out with a better understanding of the varied nature of China and its people.
  • (3/5)
    Except for the beginning and the end Meng Jin puts together a tight family narrative with insights into language, emigration, time, history, secrets and lies. Secrets kept as an individual, as a family, and as a society. So there are problems at the beginning, which is confusing and misdirected. And the end, which is mystical and incomplete. And frequently, awkward phrasing makes me wonder if the language is intentionally stilted (like this sentence) to reflect the author's inner monologue between English and Chinese expressed through the characters. e.g., "The nurse cares for infants in a way that she cannot their grown counterparts." (p. 5) It's not wrong. It's not bad. It just tastes funny in my ear.The bulk of the text reads cleaner; diverse, but friendly. Personal secrets and hidden histories create an emptiness, a space for the present to echo, revealing a hidden space behind the identity of each character trying to change themselves. The middle part I enjoyed.And towards the end was an exploration of language, a character rediscovering the Chinese of her childhood and finding complex expression of time reflected in her increasing fluency. Unfortunately, the observation felt late to the game. Why should you read this book? Understanding the emigrant experience; it's not all about what you discover in the new country - there's a lot going on in the past that is left behind. Coming to America isn't just about finding America, Little Gods is about what is left behind, hidden, reinvented. If you're not a woman leaving China, this book is not about you, which is why you should read it and learn about someone else. Why skip it? The beginning is awkward, the ending isn't particularly satisfying, the twists are purely metaphysical, and the proof (at least) needed some more editing. (Much like this review could have been thought out, structured, and edited to make it coherent. Mea culpa.)
  • (4/5)
    Intelligently written, complex novel exploring the realities of what experiences shape a person's life. Su Lan may be one of the most complex (there's that word again) characters I've run across lately. Born into extreme poverty, she rose to become a highly educated and intellectual physicist. Told through the voices of 5 characters, they paint a fascinating portrait of what it was like to be living in china during the tianamen square massacre.For me, one of the most prominent themes in this novel was her daughter's existential quest for the understanding of their relationship and chasing down the father she's never known.I wasn't able to fully connect with the characters, but this is definitely an author to watch! thank you library thing for the advance copy
  • (3/5)
    I love reading books about Chinese women, and on that topic, it was great. But the end was disappointing because it left too many stories open. It felt as if the writer just decided to stop writing in the middle.