A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li
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Synopsis

Brilliant and original, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers introduces a remarkable new writer whose breathtaking stories are set in China and among Chinese Americans in the United States. In this rich, astonishing collection, Yiyun Li illuminates how mythology, politics, history, and culture intersect with personality to create fate. From the bustling heart of Beijing, to a fast-food restaurant in Chicago, to the barren expanse of Inner Mongolia, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers reveals worlds both foreign and familiar, with heartbreaking honesty and in beautiful prose.

“Immortality,” winner of The Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize for new writers, tells the story of a young man who bears a striking resemblance to a dictator and so finds a calling to immortality. In “The Princess of Nebraska,” a man and a woman who were both in love with a young actor in China meet again in America and try to reconcile the lost love with their new lives.

“After a Life” illuminates the vagaries of marriage, parenthood, and gender, unfolding the story of a couple who keep a daughter hidden from the world. And in “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” in which a man visits America for the first time to see his recently divorced daughter, only to discover that all is not as it seems, Li boldly explores the effects of communism on language, faith, and an entire people, underlining transformation in its many meanings and incarnations.

These and other daring stories form a mesmerizing tapestry of revelatory fiction by an unforgettable writer.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Yiyun Li

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Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing and attended Peking University. She came to the United States in 1996 to study medicine and started writing two years later. After receiving a master's degree in immunology from the University of Iowa, she attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she received an MFA. Li is a recipient of The Paris Review's Plimpton Prize for new writers. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Glimmer Train, and Prospect. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and their two sons.From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published December 18, 2007 by Random House. 242 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

Kirkus Reviews

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The most overtly political story is “Immortality” (winner of the Paris Review Plimpton Prize), an ambitious allegory cleverly linking the eunuchs who served the ancient dynasties to the fortunes of a young man who’s the spitting image of Mao and is chosen by the state, after the Chairman’s death,...

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The New York Times

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Li's ability to write about both her native and adoptive countries - her characters include Chinese immigrants in America and émigrés on return visits to China - makes her a skillful double agent.

Oct 23 2005 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Years of Good Pray...

The Guardian

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A Thousand Years Of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li 205pp, Fourth Estate, £14.99 Among the most poignant books I own is The Seeds, a 1972 anthology of stories by Chinese writers celebrating the achievements of Mao's disastrous Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Jan 07 2006 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Years of Good Pray...

Publishers Weekly

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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 counti...

Jun 27 2005 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Years of Good Pray...

Examiner

The next time his daughter calls from work to tell her father of evening plans, he tells her the story of her name, which touches the daughter's heart.

Dec 08 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Years of Good Pray...

AV Club

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While this film marks a huge step for Wang, away from his commercial Hollywood fare (Because Of Winn-Dixie, Maid In Manhattan, the Queen Latifah vehicle Last Holiday, etc.) and back to the indie films that made his name, it's almost too far a leap.

Sep 25 2008 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Years of Good Pray...

Entertainment Weekly

Hong Kong-born director Wayne Wang made his name with quirky, observant films rooted in Chinese culture like Chan Is Missing and Eat a Bowl of Tea before Hollywood lured him into Styrofoam projects like Maid in Manhattan (2002).

Sep 24 2008 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Years of Good Pray...

Entertainment Weekly

Meanwhile, in The Turning's stark, connected stories set in his native Western Australia, Tim Winton tenderly extends his broken characters a delicate grace: A man confronts an alcoholic father while his mother lies on her deathbed;

Sep 16 2005 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Years of Good Pray...

BookPage

both The New Yorker and The Paris Review have published her work and there is a gracefulness to her style, a subtlety that runs throughout.In After a Life a couple learns what it is to sacrifice for love, while in Death Is Not a Bad Joke if Told the Right Way the young narrator comes to learn...

Jan 20 2016 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Years of Good Pray...

Bookmarks Magazine

"That we get to meet and talk to each other—it must have taken a long time of good prayers to get us here," says the old Chinese man to his friend while visiting America.

Aug 27 2007 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Years of Good Pray...

The New York Review of Books

It seemed briefly as though he was ready to discard his foreign subject matter, his tales of the sea and of foreign adventurers, and try to move into the heart of brightness—a large house in London with not a foreigner in sight, in “the impenetrable and polished discretions of closed doors and cu...

Nov 30 2006 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Years of Good Pray...

Spirituality & Practice

When Yilan (Faye Yu) greets her father, Mr. Shi (Henry O), at the Spokane airport, they do not hug.

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