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Kinder Than Solitude

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  2,335 ratings  ·  366 reviews
A profound mystery is at the heart of this magnificent new novel by Yiyun Li, “one of America’s best young novelists” (Newsweek) and the celebrated author of The Vagrants, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Moving back and forth in time, between America today and China in the 1990s, Kinder Than Solitude is the story of three people whose lives are changed by a m ...more
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published February 25th 2014 by Random House (first published April 2013)
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Coping mechanisms. For how long can one cling on to them with a quiet desperation?

Long after grief subsided, long after the ache dealt by the blow of tragedy dulled, Ruyu, Moran and Boyang continued to let their lives revolve around their coping mechanisms. In place of a youthful lust for life and unbounded optimism they made a gaping emptiness their constant companion, drew strength from their blunt indifference to the world at large, never caring for the interminable flow of time and living f
Elyse  Walters
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Library - Overdrive ebook. I went in blind. I had no expectation. Great surprise discovery.

This is the first book I’ve read by Yiyun Li. I’m completely stoked!!!!
Her writing intrigued me. On almost every page there were excerpts I wanted to highlight. Eventually - I made myself stop analyzing every sentence - stopped the highlighting- and just snuggled under my comforter and read for the PURISTS PLEASURE. I'd gladly read this book again. - hell - I just want more soup bowls that Yiyun Li is dis
Loyalty to the past is a foundation of life one does not by happenstance or by will end up living.

To be so consumed with one's choices, so consumed that every present choice is a consequence of the past; to be enveloped by guilt so vexatious that it gnaws your waking thoughts; to want to love and be loved so badly that you stop desiring love.

To live by this code:
People don't vanish from one's life, they come back in disguise.

To live this thought daily, view everyone through lens
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asian-literature
“Perhaps there is a line in everyone’s life that, once crossed, imparts a certain truth that one has not been able to see before, transforming solitude from a choice into the only possible line of existence.”

For four friends, that line was crossed during their late teenage years, when one of them was poisoned, perhaps deliberately, perhaps accidentally, lingering in a physical limbo state until she finally dies years later The young man, Boyang, remains in China; the two young women, Ruyu and Mo
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
It took me over a week to read the first 90 pages of this book. I plugged along because I didn't have a good reason to quit....except that I was not enjoying it. When I recognize the quality of an author's prose, I feel compelled to keep trying even if the book is difficult for me to read. I don't mean difficult in the sense that I can't understand the writing, but difficult because the story is not compelling.

After 90 pages, I realized I was forcing myself to continue, calculating in my head t
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Solitude is not kind in the world of this novel. But there is little that is kind, so solitude becomes a refuge and false haven.

This is a powerful and intensely meditative novel. Children on the treacherous shoals of their teenage years sense the dangers, but don’t really understand the nature of them, and can be helpless to avoid them, especially if they already feel isolated. They say false things, or do seemingly malicious deeds, without fully appreciating the consequences which may then go o
Patrice Hoffman
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li is the enthralling story of three friends who's lives are forever bound by the history they have tried to run from since youth. The news of the death of Shaoai, which is possibly caused by one of the three, jump starts the novel. After more than 20 years in a coma, the one tie holding these three together, is finally severed.

The premise of a mystery is what attracted my attention to this novel initially, by Li's writing kept me engrossed and in need of savoring
Set partly in China shortly after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, partly in Beijing and America around twenty years later, 'Kinder than Solitude' tells the story of three friends and their slow withdrawal into a self-imposed emotional isolation after their lives are irreversibly altered by an event, that may or may not have been an attempted murder.

The catalyst of the story is Ruyu. Orphaned as a child and raised by two deeply religious 'great aunts', she is sent to Beijing to live with r
Craig Swartz
Feb 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
Let me start with the good. Thanks to Goodreads for sending me this book in a giveaway. It's fun to be a winner.

I had never heard of Yiyun Li. She has written a couple of other books and seems like she has a following of people that enjoy her novels. She has a real easy writing style that flows along as you read it. Just as a writer, I would say she has talent.

The problem is what the book jacket led me to believe is the story. "A profound mystery is at the heart of this magnificent new novel" i
switterbug (Betsey)
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
In this stunning, introspective novel of loneliness and detachment, two women--Moran, and Ruyu, and one man, Boyang-- are illuminated in the months before and the decades after a tragedy. As teenagers, they banded together in their communal Beijing neighborhood. Shaoai, an outspoken dissident of the Chinese government, was poisoned, apparently an accident, in the shadow of the Tiananmen Square protests. She takes twenty years to die, although the massive deterioration begins early. Soon after th ...more
The best epithet for this book would be "pensive".

Before she met Josef, she had been in Madison for two and a half months, but those days, like the time since she had left Josef, had been willfully turned into the footprints of seabirds on wet sand, existing only between the flow and ebb of the tide.

(see what I mean? somehow this ostensibly simple passage is my favorite in the whole book, along with this one, where it is not about the wording but about the feeling:
To be brought to an understand
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This poignant novel looks at the relationship between three friends and an event which has shaped their lives. The book begins with Boyang, a ‘diamond’ bachelor at thirty seven; with a good income and spacious housing in crowded Beijing, he is divorced with no children. When we meet him, he is arranging the cremation of Shaoai, who was poisoned twenty one years ago and has finally died after years of illness and suffering. On the death of Shaoai, he sends an email to his two childhood friends – ...more
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a poignant book that revolves around three friends and an event - the poisoning of another friend - that changes their lives forever. It hops back in time between their childhood and the present (twenty years later), to see what sort of lives they live, and how much they are effected by the past. I cared deeply about all the characters, but this is a sad tale of mourning, loss, and broken dreams and to be honest, I felt quite depressed, even after finishing it, a little haunted.

Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
OH MY GOD. Yiyun Li. The legend. The icon. SHE IS INCREDIBLE. Every book I read by her is my fave fave fave. I can't wait to read The Vagrants. There were sentences every PARAGRAPH of this book where I had to pause and set the book down and reconsider my life. The ending was a little underwhelming for me but like......this book just lives on and on and on past its ending. This was so painful. So good. Just wow!!! ...more
Susan Ovans
Apr 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
Reading this through to the end was a chore. The three friends at the core of the book are the same remote, unlikable character in different guises. The plot is dull and the "twist" at the root of what may or may not be a murder is implausible. The ending is entirely inadequate. I regret every hour I spent on this and only wish I'd given it up at the start. ...more
Leslie Reese
Feb 14, 2014 rated it liked it
My thoughts about this book are not firm....

In 1989 childhood friends Boyang and Moran welcome 15-year-old Ruyu and her accordion into their world of school and bicycle rides throughout the province of Beijing. Ruyu will stay as a paid guest in the home of Shaoai---a 22 year old university student---and Shaoai’s parents and bedridden grandfather. Orphaned at birth and raised by two Catholic grandaunts, Ruyu is not interested in friendship but sees her move to Beijing as part of the destiny which
Apr 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I hesitated between "it was ok" and "I liked it", there were parts that engaged me.

But, in the end, the story failed to grab me, I didn't feel particularly invested in any of the characters. They were all so detached and un-engaging, even in their youth for the most part. You only saw glimpses of what was stirring underneath their cold, unemotional facades, but it never lead anywhere.

There was one character I did grow some sympathy for, towards the very end: Moran. However, I do feel very dissa
Aug 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Amazing prose. The author digs deep for emotional twists and truth.

"You can't both live and have lived, my dear Christophe." - Romain Rolland, Jean-Christophe

Boyang had thought grief would make people less commonplace.

These people forget that those who rush to every sweet fruit of life, rush to death, too.

"Good that things come to an end."

Cypresses and pine trees - symbols of everlasting youth (at a cemetery)

Loyalty to the past is the foundation of a life one does not, by happenstance or by
Feb 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, arc
Originally posted by The Page Walker .

The story moves back and forth, from the present and back to a melancholic past of 20 years. It began right after the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, in Beijing. It would seem that no matter how much teeth and horns China shows to prohibit its people from remembering and discussing the said event, history cannot be erased. And perhaps, this is Yiyun Li’s simple way of remembering.

The book follows the lives of three young people from Beijing, who, after
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is an ambitious undertaking, a trip into a nether world so unrelentingly bleak that sometimes I had to take a break – put in a load of laundry, turn the compost, really anything else except return to the book. Yet return I did, after each break, because of its power.

It is late 1989, just after the infamous Tiananmen Square protests. Four young people – Ruyu, Moran, Boyang, and Shaoai – live in a Beijing hutong, a compound where people share living space. Shaoai is poisoned, and one of
this book looks at the relationship present and past between a group and can be seen at times as a bit depressing with lost dreams and hopes after an incident when they were younger and that person passes away. the book switches between past and present
Val Penny
My sister gave me this book for Christmas. Although it was described on the cover as a "thriller", a genre I enjoy, it is not a book that I would have picked up for myself. The author, Yiyun Li is a Chinese American writer who was born in Beijing, China on 4 November 1972. She was educated at the University of Beijing and the University of Iowa. She is a writer of some note and her debut short story collection A Thousand Years of Good Prayers won the 2005 Frank O'Connor International Short Story ...more
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is quite an interesting book. First of all, the excellent presence of a good number of characters in such a relatively short book is very nice. Each of them, from the three main characters to Shaoai who is the prime mover of the book's problem, to Celia, to Josef, to Auntie and her family, to Boyang's mother, and so forth, is well-depicted and rings true.

Second, I am actually not sure whether the characters Boyang, Ruyu, and Moran are protagonists as I understand the term. Really, they are
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
This quietly disturbing novel raises questions that will be hard to shake off. Its characters were childhood friends in the days immediately following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Two are Chinese ex-pats living in the United States and one is a successful resident of the thriving capitalist city of Beijing. But regardless of residency status, these three exist within a moral lacuna, a void created by the absence of, not kindness, but justice. Yiyun Li makes it clear that what China has ...more
Relentlessly dreary from beginning to end, Kinder than Solitude presents the world as a dusty repository of heartless, futile hostility. This brittle despair might be right up my alley, but the author, Yiyun Li, offers ornate craft in place of meaning.

Ruyu and her two friends, Moran and Boyang, grow from peculiar little children into standard-issue disaffected adults. Their world is loveless, their hearts empty. Even the poisoning at the novel’s core is devoid of passion. But this arid depressio
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: net-galley
’The dead did not fade when they remained unacknowledged.’

This story, which moves between contemporary America and China around the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, involves the lives of four people: Moran, Ruyu, Boyang and Shaoai. When Shaoai is poisoned, quite possibly by one of the other three, their lives move in different directions and they become separated. Moran and Ruyu move to the United States, while Boyang remains in China. Their lives and their capacity for connecting
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I guess you could say I am really into books that center around a death. In this case, Kinder Than Solitude hinges on the slow death by poisoning of a young woman and the lives before and after of the three childhood playmates who were involved in it. If this sounds familiar, it's because it references the 1995 thalium poisoning of college student Zhu Ling. I didn't realize this until I described this book to my cousin—Actual Chinese Person Wang Yiting—and she said "oh, this was a really famous ...more
Jessica Leight
Mar 30, 2014 rated it liked it
I read this book with great interest at first, enjoying the mysterious air and the little glimpses into the rapid evolution of Chinese society and the city of Beijing and the shadow cast by recent upheavals (Tiananmen most of all, but also the Cultural Revolution and earlier famines). However, the more I read the more my interest ebbed. First, the fundamental mystery was never resolved in any meaningful way: while we did learn who was responsible for the poisoning, it was totally unclear why, an ...more
Ayelet Waldman
Mar 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
This woman can write a devastating description.
Brittany Picardi Ruiz
The premise of the book is that a mysterious tragedy happened twenty years ago to a group of friends. The result of this is that they are forever linked, but have gone their separate ways in life. While there is some vivid detail in the novel, the characters never came alive for me. I loved the descriptions of the quadrangle in Beijing where the friends grew up. The families coming together after meals, sharing gossip and stories, created a beautiful picture for me. But the setting was more aliv ...more
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Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing, China and moved to the United States in 1996. She received an MFA from Iowa Writers' Workshop and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. Her stories and essays have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review,and elsewhere. She has received a Whiting Writers' Award and was awarded a Lannan Foundation residency in Marfa, TX. Her debut ...more

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“But loneliness is as delusive a belief in the pertinence of the world as is love: in choosing to feel lonely, as in choosing to love, one carves a space next to oneself to be filled by others - a friend, a lover, a toy poodle, a violinist on the radio.” 15 likes
“The crowdedness of family life and the faithfulness of solitude - both brave decisions, or both decisions of cowardice - make little dent, in the end, on the profound and perplexing loneliness in which every human heart dwells.” 1 likes
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