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Where Reasons End

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A fearless writer confronts grief and transforms it into art, in a book of surprising beauty and love, "a masterpiece by a master” ( Elizabeth McCracken,   Vanity Fair ).

"Li has converted the messy and devastating stuff of life into a remarkable work of art.”— The Wall Street Journal


The narrator of Where Reasons End writes, “ I had but one delusion, which I held on to with all my We once gave Nikolai a life of flesh and blood; and I’m doing it over again, this time by words .”

Yiyun Li meets life’s deepest sorrows as she imagines a conversation between a mother and child in a timeless world. Composed in the months after she lost a child to suicide, Where Reasons End trespasses into the space between life and death as mother and child talk, free from old images and narratives. Deeply moving, these conversations portray the love and complexity of a relationship.

Written with originality, precision, and poise, Where Reasons End is suffused with intimacy, inescapable pain, and fierce love.

170 pages, Hardcover

First published February 5, 2019

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About the author

Yiyun Li

63 books1,093 followers
Yiyun Li is the author of seven books, including Where Reasons End, which received the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award; the essay collection Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life; and the novels The Vagrants and Must I Go. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, and Windham-Campbell Prize, among other honors. A contributing editor to A Public Space, she teaches at Princeton University.

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5 stars
1,091 (25%)
4 stars
1,544 (36%)
3 stars
1,122 (26%)
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370 (8%)
1 star
99 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 717 reviews
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,121 reviews30.2k followers
February 3, 2019
I don’t have the words for this one, but I’ll try because this book deserves to be read.

This is a bite-sized book at less than 200 pages, and Yiyun Li has left her mark on it, making it feel epic in proportions.

Where Reasons End is an imagined conversation between a mother and her son she lost to suicide. What you need to know is that Yiyun Li also lost a child to suicide, and she wrote this book in months just after.

I’m not sure how I can summarize this well other than to say that Li’s portrayal of grief is honest, precise, poignant, and profoundly resonant, and yet these words are not enough. The care in which she takes with this topic could only be taken from someone who knows it, someone who has lived this grief deep inside her heart.

The searing pain of loss juxtaposed with the intricate beauty of a mother’s unconditional love...It’s a heartfelt masterpiece, and my words are inordinately inadequate.

Thank you to the publisher for the complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,002 reviews35.9k followers
March 11, 2019
“I had but one delusion, which I held onto with all my willpower: We once gave Nikolai a life of flesh and blood; and I’m doing it over again, this time with words”.

Painfully beautiful words are exchanged between a mother and her son.

We know before reading this book that a mother’s son - Yiyun Li’s son Nikolai - committed suicide.

“Adjectives are my guilty pleasure”, Nikolai says.
“I know. You may have to supply me some”.
“Which one word, I wondered, would he come up with to describe my

“Do you want me to feel sad for myself, too? Nikolai said”.
“I thought about the question. I didn’t know the answer”.
“I’m not as sad as you think, he said. Not anymore”.
“I didn’t need him to tell me that, but wouldn’t it be good, my child, if you could still feel sad as I do, because then you could feel other things as I do, too?
But I didn’t say these words to him. Instead I told him a story about my high school classmates mother”.

How does a mother lose a child?
“I thought about the eight hours between when I dropped him off at the intersection and when he died. Eight hours was a long time. What had happened will always be unknown to me”.

Sorrow - grief - death - suicide:
No words fit...
No thoughts match the feelings of a painful - unspeakable loss-
nothing Yiyun Li could write would be right, or could bring her son back.
But the words Li ‘did’ write feel gut piercing real - A CONVERSATION IMAGINED....
The conversation between the unnamed narrator and Nikolai - are imagined conversations between them ‘both’.
Painfully beautiful....impeccably written.

A very sad book about sadness and loss.....
death by suicide....
A few parts will make you smile.....
Arguing over adjectives was a great pause to laugh...

A mother’s love for her son!!!! I absolutely love and admire Yiyun Li’s writing. I will continue to read more of what she writes.
I’m sorry for her loss.

To my friends - and cousin who also lost a child by suicide - and children by illness - I’m always deeply sorry for your loss - I love you.

Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews966 followers
July 28, 2019
Reflective and moving, Where Reasons End meditates on what it means for a mother to endure the death of a child. Rooted in the author’s own loss of her teenaged son, the slim novel imagines a conversation between a mother and her sixteen-year-old son after his suicide. The pair discusses everything from the nuances of their fraught relationship to the therapeutic powers of writing; in spare prose mother and son recall past memories, debate about the merits of adjectives, consider the different forms grief takes, and contemplate what it means to live with absence. The son’s snarkiness counterpoints his mother’s pain, often coming across as cruel and unsettling. A quick but impactful read.
Profile Image for Rachel.
550 reviews874 followers
April 8, 2019
Where Reasons End is an imagined conversation between a mother and the son she lost to suicide. The unnamed narrator (modeled after Li herself whose 16-year-old son died by suicide in 2017) is a writer, who deals with her loss by writing out a series of dialogues with her son Nikolai - not his real name, but as good as any.

This entire book is essentially an exercise in whether or not it's possible to take linguistic ownership over one's grief. The narrator and her son engage in a series of verbal sparring matches, challenging aphorisms and the kind of common language that surrounds mourning. But as well as bemoaning the limitations of language, the narrator also celebrates what words are capable of. "Words fall short, yes, but sometimes their shadows can reach the unspeakable." The narrator doesn't attempt to reckon with the question of why this tragedy occurred, and she isn't interested in eulogizing her son in these pages; instead it's a candid attempt to come to terms with her loss without losing her identity as a writer and a mother.

"I was a generic parent grieving a generic child lost to an inexplicable tragedy. Already there were three clichés. I could wage my personal war against each one of them. Grieve from Latin gravare, to burden, and gravis, grave, heavy. What kind of mother would consider it a burden to live in a vacancy left behind by a child? Explicate from Latin ex (out) + plicare (fold), to unfold. But calling Nikolai’s actions inexplicable was like calling a migrant bird on a new continent lost. Who can say that the vagrant doesn’t have a reason to change the course of its flight. Nothing inexplicable for me, only I didn’t want to explain: A mother’s job is to enfold not to unfold. Tragedy now that is an inexplicable word. What was a goat song, after all, which is what tragedy seemed to mean originally?"

Where Reasons End simply would not work if Yiyun Li didn't have the superb command of language that she does. For whatever reason, this is the passage that I kept coming back to: "How do you compare sadness that takes over like an erupted volcano to sadness that stays inside one, still as a stillborn baby? People talk about grief coming and going like waves, but I am not a breakwater, I am not a boat, I am not a statue left on a rocky shore, tested for its endurance." But this is the kind of book where you could highlight the entire thing if you're looking for sharp and incisive yet sparse prose.

I will say: this requires a certain amount of mental and emotional investment from the reader; you need to meet Li halfway and you need to want to engage with what you're reading. I don't think I was in the perfect headspace for this novel, hence the 4 stars rather than 5, but it's undeniably brilliant and it's a book that I can see myself revisiting some day.
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
491 reviews237 followers
April 15, 2023
آن جا که دیگر دلیلی نیست داستان رنج است ، داستان درد و جدایی ، حکایت زجری ایست که عقل را نابود کرده و روانی پریشان و رنجور به جا گذاشته.
کتاب یی یون لی روایت غمی ایست که امان او را بریده ، داغی که راوی داستان دیده و دردی که کشیده را نمی توان در هوشیاری وصف کرد ، او از خود جدا شده و ذهن او روایتگر گفت و گوهای نویسنده با عزیز رفته می شود . این جاست که مرز میان مرگ و زندگی از بین می رود ، جسم و زمان معنی خود را از دست می دهد و سخن میان مانده و رفته و زنده و بی جان شکل می گیرد .
نوشتن این مکالمات رنج راوی داستان را کم نمی کند ، او در یاد و خاطره عزیز خود غرق شده ، درد و رنج فراق و جدایی او ابدی و همیشگی به نظر می رسد . گفت و گو های خیالی هم نه به پرسش های او پاسخ می دهند و نه مرهمی بر زخم او هستند .
روایت زیبا و شاعرانه خانم یون لی راهی برای رهایی از درد رنج و جدایی نشان نمی دهد ، داستان او چگونگی زیستن در رنج را نشان می دهد ، رنجی که مانند روزهای نخست داغ و سوزان است .
Profile Image for Bkwmlee.
383 reviews252 followers
February 23, 2019
At less than 200 pages, this is a very short book, yet the topic it covers is one that requires quite a bit of time and focus to digest as well as ponder. In this brief but thoughtfully told story, the fictional narrator – a mother and also brilliant writer and teacher – imagines a conversation with her teenage son Nikolai several months after losing him to suicide. There is no plot, no action, and very little in terms of structure – instead of a linear story, we are presented with snippets of conversation between mother and son that is both sobering and honest, yet also profound and heartfelt. At no point does the story try to explain why Nikolai chose to take his own life nor does it attempt to provide any details on what happened -- rather, the mother in the story chooses to channel her grief through discussions with her son about memories both happy and sad, moments in the past and present, each other’s thoughts and feelings, and the language that binds them together the most: words, specifically as it relates to writing, reading, and even grammar usage. The discussions – mostly back-and-forth bantering that sometimes veers toward argumentative, other times philosophical and sentimental – at times also mix with the narrator’s own thoughts and reminisces to form a relatively precise picture of both characters’ personalities as well as the type of relationship they had.

Despite its short length, this is not an easy read by any means, especially with the knowledge going into this that the story parallels the real-life experience of the author Yiyun Li -- an accomplished writer and teacher similar to the unnamed fictitious narrator in the story -- whose 16-year-old son Vincent committed suicide almost 2 years ago. Knowing that writing this book was such a personal journey for Li made the experience of reading it so much more poignant and heartbreaking, yet at the same time I can’t help but admire her strength in the face of such an unspeakable tragedy that no parent should ever have to endure. Li writes with candor here, in prose that is so beautifully rendered that I found myself highlighting something on nearly every page. There were so many passages that made me stop and reflect, gave me food for thought and even made me re-read and cull a deeper meaning that I hadn’t quite expected – this was actually one of the reasons why it took me longer than usual to read this book.

Quite honestly, it is hard for me to assign a rating to this book and it is equally hard for me to come up with words that would adequately summarize the impact of the story contained within its pages. So I will keep this review brief and only say that I encourage people to read this book, irregardless of one’s experience with grief. This may be a small book, but it is deeply insightful. Definitely recommended!
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,774 reviews1,254 followers
June 18, 2019
I was a generic parent grieving a generic child lost to an inexplicable tragedy. Already there were three clichés. I could wage my personal war against each one of them. Grieve from Latin gravare, to burden, and gravis, grave, heavy. What kind of mother would consider it a burden to live in a vacancy left behind by a child? Explicate from Latin ex (out) + plicare (fold), to unfold. But calling Nikolai’s actions inexplicable was like calling a migrant bird on a new continent lost. Who can say that the vagrant doesn’t have a reason to change the course of its flight. Nothing inexplicable for me, only I didn’t want to explain: A mother’s job is to enfold not to unfold. Tragedy now that is an inexplicable word. What was a goat song, after all, which is what tragedy seemed to mean originally?

Yiyun Li has written a 4 previous fictional books number of novels and the memoire – “Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life” – an account of a life in books written over a two year period of suicidal depression and published in 2017. Later in 2017 Yiyun’s sixteen year old son Vincent committed suicide.

This novel, dedicated to Vincent, is a series of dialogues between a Chinese America novelist (and teacher of creative writing) and her son who has recently committed suicide: a son she refers to as Nikolai (a name he had given himself in some of his writings); a son who was a great cook, brilliant oboe player, widely liked, but also one who always had a deeper shadow (some of his early stories or obsessions, causing concern to his mother or even schoolteachers) – but also one who verbally sparred with his mother, openly questioning and challenging the limitations of her writing.

And the dialogues are a continuation of that sparring, questioning and challenging, but now with both of them questioning both what has happened (albeit the question the Mother never asks or even indirectly approaches – is what lead to his actions) and what is now happening to them.

But importantly this is not: a dream, an imaginary or internal verbalised dialogue; or one (Lincoln in the Bardo style) to be imagined as some form of imagined physical encounter – instead it is a dialogue of written words, and effectively as a written story – the only way in which the author Mother knows how to articulate and examine her feelings.

What I was doing was that I had always been doing, writing stories. In this one the child Nikolai (which was not his real name, but a name he had given himself, among many other names he had used) and his mother dear meet in a world unspecified in time and space. It was not a world of gods or spirits. And it was not a world dreamed up by me: even my dreams were mundane and landlocked in reality. It was a world made up by words, and words only. No images, no sounds.


Some people life by images, some by sounds. It’s words for me. Words said to me. Words not meant for me but picked up by me in any case. Words in their written form. Words that make sense and words that make nonsense.


I had but one delusion, which I held onto with all my willpower. We once gave Nikolai a life of flesh and blood; and I’m doing it over again, this time by words.

Much of their dialogue is playful (even if permanently seen against a background of disquiet and mourning). For example:

I had an exhausting dream, he said the moment I sat down by him one morning. I dreamed that I was a negative number, and I couldn’t figure out my square root.

It’s possible I said. Wait until you learn the imaginary numbers.

Mommy, I’m not stupid, he said. I know imaginary numbers, but I don’t like to deal with that troublesome i.


I hate that word, self indulgence, Nikolai said.
But I don’t mean you. I’ve never called anyone self-indulgent but myself.
Isn’t that a kind of self-indulgence, too?

And much of it is lightly and fondly argumentative – the two argue over the important of reading versus writing

I always imagine writing is for people who don’t want to feel or don’t know how to.
And reading? I asked. Nikolai was a good reader.
For those who do.

And extensively on the importance of nouns against adjectives (Nikolai’s favourite, to which his mother has a marked aversion) – a symptom of a divide between feeling and imagination (Nikolai) and logic/fact (Mother).

And this underlies the Mother’s reliance on the written word – in fact when dealing with her feelings she first writes them down and then seeks to explore them by examining their meaning, but with an emphasis on etymological rather than emotional meaning (of course while being fully aware, by the Nikolai character that she herself is writing, of what she is doing). See for example the opening quote of my review or this sequence of dialogue.

What happens to sentimental when you take time out of it? Nikolai asked.
You are left with gibberish.
What I said – I was dense ……
The word, Nikolai said. Did you notice time is in the middle of sentimental?
I looked up both words. Etymologically it means nothing I said.
What an inelastic mind you have, he said.

Overall a powerful and very different novel, one which I think gains crucially from its authenticity (a novel like this written by someone who was entirely divorced from the actual reality of child-loss would I think be a very different read) and which explores writing through tragedy, and tragedy through writing.

You always say words fall short, he said.
Words fall short, yes. But sometimes their shadows can reach the unspeakable.
Words don’t have shadows, mommy. They live on the page, in a two dimensional world.
Still we look for some depth in words when we can’t find it in the three dimensional world, no?
You look for it, do you mean. I don’t look for anything now, he said.
But still he had indulged me in this world of ours, made by words.
Profile Image for Paul Fulcher.
Author 2 books1,205 followers
July 3, 2019
I looked up the word.  He must have acquired a dictionary’s worth of knowledge.  
A meditation on grief, through a lesson on entomology and word play.  
Taking its title from a line in Elizabeth Bishop's poem Argument, the narrator (whose biography is similar to the author's) stages an imaginary dialogue with Nikolai, an avatar she has created of her son.  
We once gave Nikolai a life of flesh and blood; and I’m doing it again, this time by words.  
The result bears a strong Max Porter's Grief is a Thing with Feathers, with Nikolai playing the role of Crow.
Clearly written from the heart (this is Yiyun Li’s own very personal and immediate response to the suicide of her teenage son) but curiously unaffecting due to its rather academic and pretentious tone, with Nikolai a memorably annoying character. Jan's review (Probably the least sad novel about a mother conversing with her 16 year old son after his death by suicide that I'll ever read- https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8...) sums it up perfectly.

I couldn’t help but contrast this unfavorably to another book with which Max Porter was involved, this time as publisher, Han Kang’s The White Book, translated by Deborah Smith.

But towards the novel's end, a possible interpretation suddenly emerges. Nikolai is Jacob Rees-Mogg, calling his dog Quintus as he is the fifth member of the family, and the mother/author David Cameron (mistaking LOL for 'lots of love') and the whole book a metaphor for the national self-destruction that is Brexit.
For a more sympathetic review and one which showcases the wordplay, see Gumble Yard's review
2.5 stars
Profile Image for But_i_thought_.
178 reviews1,470 followers
December 17, 2019
This novel is notable for the searing chasm between its emotional potential and its dry, didactic delivery. Set up as a series of imagined conversations between a mother and her deceased teenage son, mere weeks after his suicide, the book attempts to formulate a kind of philosophy of grief. Mother and son meet up in a world made up of words, a space beyond time, in a language beyond tenses. The premise is all the more harrowing because it is inspired by the author’s own life experience.

And this leads me to the main issue with the book. Perhaps as a result of this very real proximity to pain, Li evicts the reader from the emotional orbit of her story. Much is implied, very little shared. We never get a strong sense of the characters — their circumstances, their psychological textures. Instead, the novel reads like an exercise in Socratic dialogue, a lecture series on etymology and the abstract self-flagellation of a writer grappling with her own inner critic. Mother and son bicker endlessly — mostly about the meaning of words and the correct use of adjectives.

For a novel about motherhood and grief, I found it uncommonly cold, dry, detached and repetitive — a work hostile to the notion of vulnerability. A far more intimate – as well as analytical – account of motherly grief can be found in poet Denise Riley’s book, Time Lived, Without Its Flow.

Mood: Emotionally austere
Rating: 5/10

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Profile Image for Eric Anderson.
665 reviews3,233 followers
February 5, 2019
“Where Reasons End” is an imagined conversation between a mother and her 16 year old son after his suicide. The aching feelings of grief at the centre of this novel are made all the more intense knowing that the author herself lost a child to suicide. Yet their dialogue isn’t necessarily about why he ended his life and it’s not even about directly memorializing his life; it’s more an exchange about the nature of being and the way language gives structure to relationships. This tone isn’t surprising given Yiyun Li’s recent memoir “Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life” where the author discusses her own depression and suicide attempts. Like in her autobiographical writing, Li doesn’t cut to the heart of emotion but shades in its edges so you feel the bleeding heart of the matter more profoundly. The more their conversation persists the flimsier language feels: “None of the words, I thought, would release me from the void left by him.” As sobering and serious as all this seems, this mother and son make a perfect balance. When the mother’s musing becomes too lofty the son quickly and humorously brings her back to reality. In this way Li captures a beautiful dynamic which persists even after the son’s death.

Read my full review of Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li on LonesomeReader
Profile Image for Jessie.
259 reviews167 followers
December 19, 2018
I am struggling with understanding the description of the book from this publisher and can not determine whether or not the author wrote this following the death of her own son, as that’s what the description implies. Is that is the case, #wherereasonsend by #yiyunli is a book that I think perhaps should not have been written. Composed in the early months following the suicide of her sixteen year old son, this book tells about a fictional meeting between an author and her deceased son. While I think this book is supposed to represent a reflection on loss, I would describe it as an artless grief, for no reason other than it was written too soon, from too raw a place. I took a class with an instructor once who had lost her son that year and she was too unravelled by her loss to share her craft, it was a grief to watch her struggle in her art in front of an audience. That was this book for me. The two meet in this book in a non world that is sightless and soundless and affectless and communicate by thoughts to one another. Li or the author in the book is too weighted by her own fear to ask her son the questions she wants to and so instead they have short terse discussions that dance around the issues. Perhaps the most painful part of this book is the persnickety, terse, and derisive way she imagines her son talking to her. It so clearly reflects her own guilt about his death and her feelings of inadequacy as a mother. But what is even more tragic I think, is that it describes a cold and critical son, one so unkind and angry, that I can’t imagine that as she continues on her journey of loss, the author will want to see this rendition of him captured on the page. If this is not the case, then I feel that the description of the book is quite confusing, and the book itself, written from a convincing fog, is one that I didn’t take much from in reading it. Thank you to @netgalley for the ARC, opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Jan.
1,072 reviews29 followers
February 12, 2019
Probably the least sad novel about a mother conversing with her 16 year old son after his death by suicide that I'll ever read. The book takes place when the son has been dead for three months, so maybe the idea is that the mother is still numb, but there was very little emotion here at all. Instead, we get wordplay and intellectualizing between these two brilliant but closed off characters, and it's all so delicate that I feel like an oaf for being unmoved by it, especially knowing that Li has experienced a child's suicide.
Profile Image for Claire Reads Books.
137 reviews1,385 followers
April 11, 2019
4.5 ⭐️ Yiyun Li is a writer to wrestle with as she herself wrestles with words and with grief. Where Reasons End is a conversation between a woman and her son, who has died by suicide, but it is really a conversation Li is having with herself about the limits of language and time. Li’s books are not easy, they are not always gratifying, and their meanings are rarely self-evident—in this one, as you grasp for solid answers, you often get the sense of trying to wrap your fingers around a shadow or the abyss.

Compare this book to something like Blue Nights, Joan Didion’s account of the loss of her daughter: Where Reasons End is not nearly so tidy and lacks that book’s literary polish and aesthetic catharsis, but Li probably gets much closer to the truth (whatever that may be) in her own unruly, imperfect way. “Words fall short, yes, but sometimes their shadows can reach the unspeakable.” This is certainly a book worth grappling with, however reason-less it may be.
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,256 reviews49 followers
April 9, 2021
The second short book in my reviewing backlog was an impressively moving and personal book. The narrator is a writer whose talented sixteen year old son has just committed suicide, and the book takes the form of an imaginary dialogue with him that helps her deal with her grief. There are also plenty of lighter moments, and Li has some interesting insights on writing and language.
Profile Image for Mary.
411 reviews13 followers
January 23, 2019
“The unspeakable is a wound that stays open always, always, and forever.... There is no good language when it comes to the unspeakable, I thought. There is no precision, no originality, no perfection.”

In the case of Yiyun Li’s novel “Where Reasons End,” the unspeakable is the suicide of the narrator’s 16-year-old son, Nikolai—a boy the same age as Li’s own son was when he took his own life. This book, written in the aftermath of that suicide, is a series of imagined discussions between Nikolai and his mother in the three months after his death. There is no sentimentality or mawkishness here; Li is not angry or accusatory or searching for answers or reasons—“I didn’t want to explain: A mother’s job is to enfold, not unfold.” And that is what “Where Reasons End” does—it enfolds the reader in these conversations between Nikolai and his mother, who banter and argue and reminisce about words and writing and grammar and philosophy with a fierce intelligence that brings their relationship alive and makes its loss all the more profound and heartbreaking. “I had but one delusion,” Nikolai’s mother writes, “which I held onto with all my willpower: We once gave Nikolai a life of flesh and blood, and I’m doing it over again, this time by words.”

I thought this book was stunning. The suicide of a child must be all parents’ worst nightmare—it certainly is mine. And reading “Where Reasons End” means facing this fear head on and exposing yourself to the full searing force of a mother’s raw grief. It was not an easy read by any means, but one that was so brave and beautifully wrought that I devoured it in spite of the difficulty. There are so many passages from it that I highlighted and could quote here, but I’ll end on something Nikolai’s mother says about her attempt to address her grief through her writing: “Words fall short, yes, but sometimes their shadows can reach the unspeakable.” Li’s words in this extraordinary book do just that. Highly recommended.

I would like to thank Random House and NetGalley for providing me an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Robert Sheard.
Author 4 books300 followers
February 24, 2020
I don't like to write negative reviews, especially of books that most people have praised so highly. So let it suffice to say that had I not been reading this one as part of my #BookTubePrizeChallenge, I would have DNF'd it after 50 pages. And now that I have finished it, a DNF would have been the right decision.
Profile Image for Arghoon.
207 reviews28 followers
April 9, 2022
این کتابو برای دوستی هدیه گرفته‌بودم ولی آب ریخت روش و نشد هدیه بدم و خودم خوندمش؛))
و البته حالا خوشحالم که هدیه ندادمش چون کتابی نیست که راحت بشه دوستش داشت، اولا خوندنش بسیار حوصله میخواد و با این حجم کم یکماه طول کشید تا تمومش کنم و خیلی جاها یه قسمت هایی رو نخونده رد میکردم‌. کل کتاب مکالمه های بسسسیار پراکنده و خصوصی یک مادر با پسرشه، پسری که زنده نیست... موضوع خیلی دردناکیه و متن هم این درد و آشفتگی رو کامل نشون میداد ولی خوندنش برای من خیلی سخت بود و بیشتر جاها ربط جمله‌ها به هم واضح نبود برام... و نمیتونم اینو به ترجمه نسبت بدم چون بنظرم ترجمه خوب و روانی داشت.
•از متن:
گفتم باز شکسپیر می‌خوانم.
نیکولای گفت نمیدانستم دیگر نمی‌خوانی.
نمی‌توانست خبـردار شـود. یک سال پیش ، فردای انتخابات ریاست جمهوری ، گفتم می خواهم هر روز صبح ، قبل از اینکه برایشان صبحانه درست کنم شکسپیر بخوانم ، نمایشنامه هایش را به ترتیب زمانی ، یک دور و بعد دوباره ، هر چند بار که در طول چهار سال بشود . و صبح پس از مرگ نیکولای دست از این کار کشیدم . هنوز یادم هست آخرین صبحی را که با هم گذراندیم ، وقتی از اتاق خوابش بیرون آمد ، کتاب قطوری روی میز ناهارخوری باز بود . تک تک حرف هایمان را تا لحظه‌ی پیاده شدنش از ماشین یادم هست.
پرسید تک تک حرف هایمان ؟
بله .
از کجا بدانیم ؟
Profile Image for Anita Pomerantz.
648 reviews104 followers
January 2, 2019
This short novel imagines a series of conversations between a grieving mother and her dead son. Ostensibly it is about grief and the questions that arise after the sudden loss of a loved one. A loved one that should not have died first. However, I really didn't find this book all that emotionally moving. Some people will describe the mother/son interactions as witty, but for me, the son's voice is very snarky. In some ways, this tone keeps the book from being maudlin. But I will admit to thinking to myself on occasion, "are you sure you miss this kid?" Of course, as a mother, I know how what kids say and what kids feel can be entirely divorced from one another, but the banter kept me from feeling as much empathy as perhaps I was supposed to be feeling.

Putting all that to the side for a moment, this book is about something else beyond loss and death. It is about words. And for me, that was the most compelling reason to read this book. If you are a person who likes to think about the language, how it used, and what it really means, you will love this piece of literature. I see this book as one that will be used in college lit classes forevermore. There's so much to discuss and unpack here that I truly regretted reading it alone.
Profile Image for Hulyacln.
790 reviews373 followers
April 25, 2022
‘Aramızdaki şeyin rüyalardan daha gerçek olduğuna hiç şüphem yoktu. Ama kelimelerdi tek paylaştığımız. Birbirimizi göremiyorduk. Bir rüya nazikse eğer, insana görmek istediğini lütfediyordu.’
Bir anne 16 yaşındaki oğlu intihar edince ne yapar? Neler düşünür, nasıl yitirmez aklını? Neye sarılır? Giden çocuğunun ardında kalan derin boşluğa nasıl düşmez?
Yiyun Li kelimelere sığınıyor.
Oğlunun ağzından dökülmese de kelimeler, o söylüyormuş gibi hissediyor. Ve anlamaya çalışıyor, ‘neden yaptın? şimdi sonsuz huzurda mısın?’
Daha önce öykü kitabı Bin Yıllık Dua ve uyarlama eseri Gılgamış’ı okuduğum Yiyun Li bir yas sürecini anlatıyor Akıl Ermeyince’de. Oğluyla girdiği hayali diyaloglar öyle can acıtıcı, öyle buruk ki.. Çok etkilendiğim, pek çok cümlede kendi içime dönüp baktığım, empati kurmaktan korktuğum ancak şiirsel diliyle de hayran kaldığım bir eser oldu Akıl Ermeyince.
Gülay Tunç’un kapak tasarımı, Serkan Toy’un çok beğendiğim çevirisiyle ~
Profile Image for Julie.
447 reviews
November 3, 2018
I wanted to like this book, but I just didn't have it in me. The majority of it was a rambling mess that I just didn't have the energy to try and sort out. There were bits and pieces scattered throughout that started to make more sense, but honestly I had basically given up on the book by then, so it really didn't matter. Had this book been longer, I probably wouldn't have finished it, but given it's length I plugged through out of principle. There was a lot of potential here, and the premise could have created an amazing book but this just wasn't it. I'm disappointed in the book; maybe there's something here I'm just not getting, and if that's the case, I'm also disappointed in myself for not being able to grasp what this could have been.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Anna.
758 reviews510 followers
July 5, 2019
The unspeakable is a wound that stays open always, always, and forever... There is no good language when it comes to the unspeakable, I thought. There is no precision, no originality, no perfection.

Words fall short, yes, but sometimes their shadows can reach the unspeakable.

Nikolai reminded me of Max Porter’s Crow and my heart broke a little.
Profile Image for Faroukh Naseem.
181 reviews173 followers
December 13, 2020
How do you tackle a sensitive subject in a way that is empathetic to those who have faced it and those who can’t imagine what it is like for it to happen. Yiyun Li shows us with her masterpiece.
#theguywiththebookreview presents Where Reasons End
A writer imagines a mother conversing with her teenage son who committed suicide. Her conversations are limited to the experiences she’s shared and by what she knows of her son. She’s remembering a few things but it’s more of her trying to understand him too. These conversations seem to take place over a few weeks and they slowly make more sense as we start to picture the son she lost and also as her memories seem to not have much more to give.
The first half of the book confused me a little because I couldn’t get my head around an imagined conversations but slowly it becomes clear about the rules around which these conversations are taking place.
The way Yiyun Li has delved into the topic is very careful and measured. The sensitivity of those who are left behind is clear and hauntingly described. A book that will remain with me for ages and one that I’ll be reading again and again.
Profile Image for Larnacouer  de SH.
709 reviews157 followers
April 25, 2023
Mevzunun ne kadar kişisel olduğunun farkında değildim en başında. Yazar kendi evladını böyle kaybetmiş. Kurgu olarak yeterince hassas ve kırılgan değilmiş gibi bu detayla daha gerçekçi haliyle sarsıcı oldu.

Kitaptan size nasıl bahsedeceğimi ben de bilemiyorum aslında ama gözünüzü korkutmak istemiyorum; depresif bir metin değil. Altı çizilecek bir sürü cümle var, akıcı, kısacık. Kapağını kapattığımdan beri kitabı tanımlamak için doğru kelime neydi diye düşünüyorum. Dilimin ucunda ama çıkmıyor bir türlü.

Hani şöyle bir şey var ya: Beklemediğiniz anda ince bir sızıyla kendini gösteriyor, canınızı yakıyor, süründürüyor ama varlığını kanıtlamanız nerdeyse imkansız; iyileşmesi zaman alıyor.

Hah, kağıt kesiği!

İnsanın aklı ermiyor gerçekten.
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
Author 57 books563 followers
June 15, 2019
There was superb wordplay and poetry here but it was just so cripplingly sad that I couldn’t fully enjoy it. A mother holds conversations with her seventeen year old son who has recently killed himself. Li confronts the reader with what it is to lose a child and I am shattered.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,283 reviews174 followers
September 22, 2019
Wow, this book is just such a huge mismatch for me, I'm not entirely sure how I ended up reading it. Sure, I put a lot of things on my Goodreads to-read list that I know I'll never get around to reading, but somehow I went an extra step and ended up putting this on hold at the library months ago. I think I read a rave review in a magazine that mentioned how short it was? I really don't remember.

So this is a work of fiction about a mother having a dialogue with the ghost/memory of her teenage son who has committed suicide written by an author whose teenage son committed suicide. She has my full sympathy for her loss.

But this book just doesn't work for me with its rarefied writing style so lost in its wordplay and obsession with etymology, word choice, adverbs, adjectives and nouns. And every tenth sentence seems to be the sort of aphorism I expect will come scrolling up on my Facebook feed one day superimposed on a colorful swirl or some bit of nature photography. Quote lovers should have a field day with this. But people who like quotation marks will not, as they have been excluded.

Finally, this just comes too close on the heels of my reading of Eve Ensler's The Apology where she has a posthumous conversation with her abusive father. I'm used to my literary self-therapy being more heavily veiled in symbolism, I guess, rather than these direct addresses.
Profile Image for Vincent Scarpa.
567 reviews154 followers
January 23, 2019
Unspeakably beautiful and indescribably heartbreaking, for reasons obvious and uncannily personal. It's been some time since a book left me such a guttural, whimpering wreck.
Profile Image for Richard Cho.
190 reviews6 followers
January 29, 2019
Where would reasons end? The Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño once said in an interview: "I don't think reason has anything to do with parent-children relationships, not at all. Perhaps from the perspective of a child, reason does impose itself, but from the perspective of a parent, it's very difficult to impose reason." Is parenthood a precursor to the end of reason?

Yiyun Li's third novel, Where Reasons End, is entirely composed of a dialogue between a mother and her dead son, interspersed sporadically by the mother's pithy philosophical musings on language, love, and life, all of which, according to our protagonist, would eventually disappoint us in the end. "In this world, we don't abide by the rules that bind a child and a parent," the mother says in the book. The son had committed suicide a several months before; he was only 16. Precocious as he was (having read Les Misérable three times, played oboe in a musical ensemble, and also wrote poetry), he minded that he could not perfect himself in an imperfect life. The mother's grief is insurmountable. The narrative here is the mother's delusion, one she creates and forces herself to indulge in. She creates a world freed from space, time, and even temperature. "It was a world made up by words, and words only," she observes. After her son is gone, words are all she has to deal with her grief.

This formal ingenuity introduces the untrodden path by which a novel can portray the world. Novels (or just any books without pictures) indeed create a world made seen and felt only with words on pages. Nevertheless, the words describe looks, landscapes, and other tangibles in order to affect verisimilitude. Li's new novel blatantly disobeys this convention and depicts, in the most literal sense, a world made up only of words and devoid of everything else: timeless, spaceless, thingless.

The novel is also an autofiction, the genre of which W.G. Sebald was the indisputable master and has been recently popularized by the British writer Rachel Cusk. This fact, that Li is recounting her own experience behind the slippery label ‘fiction,' endows the book with immediacy and intimacy of unbearable sorrow. The most devastating moment surfaces when the mother is waylaid by the truth that she is speaking for both herself and her son. The world she creates through the imagined conversation is a place of exile from the paralysis her life has become.

Their dialogue showcases the interesting dynamics between a parent and a child. Knowing that no mother can win over her own child, she anticipates the reprimand her son might have dealt her had he lived in regards to what she thinks or says. More than anyone else, she knows the limits of language in a situation like hers, but she forges on, to keep this brave new world going. She often wonders how long her conversation can last. "These imaginations made it easier for me to feel sad, to weep even, but the tears were a veneer over the unspeakable." The novel probes into the glaring shortcomings of language as the disconsolate mother struggles to find solace using words to understand her situation.

As a writer who claims she has denounced her mother tongue in order to think and write in English, Li’s focus on language is like that of a surgeon tending to a surgery with a scalpel. She chooses words most consciously; every uncommon vocabulary is contested and weighed. She often refers to the etymology of the words in order to justify her choice, challenging herself to use only the most fitting nouns and, if called for, most appropriate adjectives.

The novel reproduces a number of poems in their entirety: Wallace Stevens's "This Solitude of Cataracts," a translated Chinese poem, as well as a stanza from Philip Larkin. The epigram recites Elizabeth Bishop's poem, “Argument,” from which the book derives its title. Poetry is where the use of language is fiercely scrutinized, and by presenting these poems fully on the page, Li directs more attention to the workings of language. The novel is full of such intertextual references, including her own work, the debut short story collection, Thousand Years of Good Prayers.

Li’s renown first came from her short stories. She has published two story collections, two novels, and a non-fiction, of which one of its main themes is suicide (Li’s own suicide attempts). Her previous two novels (The Vagrants and Kinder than Solitude) had a more traditional trajectory that charts from beginning to end with a verifiable plot, characterization, and denouement. In comparison, Where Reasons End is formally daring and original, marking a pivotal departure from Li's previous fiction. As with an autofiction—where fiction and factuality unite and the demarcation eventually dissolves—it is her prose itself that garners the attention. The new novel, however, is not immune from the pitfalls of an experimental and unconventional approach.

Some dialogues are too steeped in abstraction, losing their footing on what they aim to reify. Certain moments verge on histrionic as when Li uses the word “forever” when she speaks, and her son chides her, reminding her that she has forfeited the word in her dictionary a long time ago in order to become a better writer, to which she replies "You put it back for me." In addition, her incessant self-assessment of diction and torrents of etymologic investigation may hinder the readers' total immersion. However, this might be Li's intended irony; these seeming shortcomings reflect most faithfully the mother's state of mind. This novel could only be muddled because as an autofiction, the novel is constructed by a writer who claims herself to have become "muddleheaded" after her son's death.

Although no particular scene sticks after the last page is turned, the readers will be rewarded with a deep emotion. Some may notice a hint of affectation in all its linguistic technicality. However, in an era when many novels are overtly self-conscious about current political affairs, it is refreshing to see a deeply private novel, one that invites its readers into a world of its own, purely created by a mother's grief and her implacable words.

Li's new novel is a synoptically minimized work that progresses in the guise of a language play between the living and the dead. The mother creates the conversation to recover something irremediably lost. Death annuls time, not life, she wishes to believe. Her son will forever remain 16, but if indeed death does not annul life, then in the world she has created with words where time does not exist, her encounter with her son just might be possible. Although she is keenly aware of the limits of language, her ultimate hope is manifested in this line: "Words fall short, yes, but sometimes their shadows can reach the unspeakable." Li is defying death by reviving her dead son in the world she created solely by words. Defying death with words—isn't this the ultimate purpose of writing?

Profile Image for soren karimi.
259 reviews77 followers
February 3, 2022
در عنوان انگلیسی نوشته a novel؛ شک دارم.
از نگاه من این اثر داستانی نیست و نباید به نیت رمان‌خواندن سراغش رفت.
سه ستاره چون هرچند اهل این کتاب‌ها نیستم، از خواندنش پشیمان نشدم.
Profile Image for Camelia Rose.
651 reviews86 followers
December 19, 2020
Where Reasons End is a mother’s battle to make sense of her child’s sudden death. To me, this novella is a gigantic tear jerker.

The format of the book is experimental. The entire book is an imagined conversation between the mother and her teenage son who died of suicide. Readers can stitch together a picture of Nicolai’s life from fragments of memories:

Readers may get an impression that the mother was talking to the child’s spirit in a supernatural way. But no, it is only her imagination. The two voices are one and the same. For one moment she wished, recounted, mourned and self-criticized, and immediately followed by her son’s replies (still her imagination) on her wishing, recounting, mourning and circulating useless thoughts. The mother “discussed” words with her son, looked up seemingly simple words in dictionary, for she distrusted her ability to express herself and devastated by not knowing her son. Her pain was so unbearable that I cried too. I felt guilty immediately as I was indulging myself in her grief.

“A mother and a child cannot be contemporaries at any given age, and for that reason my sixteen-year-old self could not befriend yours. Each refusing to be saved, we could not save each other when young. Older--and you were still young--I was the White Queen who put up the sign...You were the one better at hiding.”

“To love is to trespass.”

“Suffering, I thought, was a word that no longer held a definition in my dictionary.”

“Had I been your age and had I been your friend I would have been bright and sharp with you. And I truly wish we had been friends. I love you so much but I can only love you as your mother. Sometimes a mother becomes the worst enemy because she can’t be the best friend.”

“Each box I opened let out memory that no space could contain. Each box that remained sealed retained its power to trip and trap.”

“My mind is made up, I thought. It has always been. I want yesterday, today and tomorrow, all with Nicolai in it.”

“A parent’s folly, I thought, is to want to give a child what she does not have.”

“Since the moment I had learned the news I had not had a moment of doubt about the coldest and darkest truth befalling us: The real night is and will be a permanent part of our life.”

“There were many could’ves at this moment. I could go down any one of them like a path that led to nowhere, only to end up somewhere between doubt and regret.”

“We can always be good, do better, try our best, but how perfect can we be before we can love ourselves and let others love us? And who, my dear child, had taken the word lovable out of your dictionary and mind, and replaced it with perfect?”

“Losing a child, I said, has nothing to do with how much time a parent has already had.”

“There might not be any baby born if a parent were able to think ahead about everything, I said. Yet I wondered if that was true. Had I not for years been preparing myself for losing him, pre-living the pain, even?”

“For years he had asked me: If you write about suffering, if you understand suffering, why did you give me a life? I had never given him an answer good enough.”

“What’s the harm of spending a few minutes lost in wishing, I thought, when the deepest wound would remain open, day and night.”

“A dear friend says we only count days and weeks and months with this intensity for two reasons: after a baby’s birth, and after a loved one’s death. There months feel as long as forever, yet as short as a single moment when it’s now and now and now and now, so I must tell my friend that there is a difference between life and death. A newborn grows by hour, by day, by week. The death of a child does not grow a minute older.”

Where Reasons End is said to be a novel, but I can’t believe it is not real. The author also just lost her son, same age, same cause of death. Both mothers are writers and Chinese immigrants. I don’t doubt Yiyun Li read Shakespeare after 2016 presidential election just as the mother did in the book. The family’s struggle to integrate themselves into American life is something I can relate to. Yiyun Li had two suicide attempts a few years before her son died. This background only makes the story more tragic.

“The unspeakable is a wound that stays open always, always, and forever” This kind of wound will never heal. The best you can do is to live with it.
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