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Where Reasons End

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,767 ratings  ·  480 reviews
A brilliant writer imagines a fictional conversation between a mother and the teenage son she lost to suicide. Yiyun Li confronts grief and transforms it into art, in a book of surprising beauty and love.

The narrator writes, "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 ti
Hardcover, 170 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Random House
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  2,767 ratings  ·  480 reviews

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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
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 portra
Elyse  Walters
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“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
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 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 f ...more
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 verba
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 c ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
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
Paul Fulcher
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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
Eric Anderson
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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 surpris ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, grief, non-fiction
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
Claire Reads Books
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“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 a
Dec 19, 2018 added it
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 t ...more
Anita Pomerantz
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
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 thinkin ...more
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Robert Sheard
Feb 24, 2020 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
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.
Britta Böhler
I found the premise intriguing and the ideas discussed in the book were interesting but in the end, they didn't really 'grab' me.
3.5* rounded down.
Faroukh Naseem
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 hi
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
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 co ...more
Jun 14, 2019 rated it liked it
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.
Vincent Scarpa
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Richard Cho
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 sporadi
Camelia Rose
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: (view spoiler)
Rod Brown
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019-real-books
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
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an incredibly beautiful and moving novel. In a (made up) conversation a grieving mother and her deceased son speak about important matters and about little things that make relationships worthwhile and meaningful.

Do not think this is a sad book, often it is lighthearted, filled with tender discussions avoiding all the time the question. At the same time it is just by the tenderness hearbreaking.

It is a very hard book to judge, it is a little gem to read and treasure. My heart has been achin
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
What a moving novel-in-dialogue. Despite the heavy subject matter, it does not solely dwell in sadness (although I was moved to the brink of tears a few times), and, despite the autobiographical elements, it introduces a fictional twist right at its premise: this is a mother’s conversation with a son already lost to suicide. The narrator gives her son Nikolai “a life of flesh and blood” once more by words, and words / language comes to play an essential role in Where Reasons End. I really enjoye ...more
Yiyun Li is a literary genius and one of the best writers of our times. The way she deals with this searing autobiographical novel is a reflection of her superior literary mind. There is no way one can read this book and not see this.

A few years ago Yiyun Li had a terrible breakdown after which she wrote Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life. When she got better her oldest son, a teenager, killed himself. Just writing these words makes me feel I’m touching unfathomable pain. How
capture stories
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“A PARENT SHOULD never be a child’s biographer” emanates a series of conversations between the mother and her dead son, Nikolai, which happens in space where time stops. In this space, the dead meet the living. Throughout, the novel summons for commemoration, reminiscent, and solace for a grieving mother who lost her child to a tragedy- suicide. Between pages, dialogues between mother and son prolong into deep-thinking, sparse, and idealistic topics. I find that Nikolai was a special child with ...more
Charlie Smith
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have hesitated to opine about this book because it is unexampled in my reading experience, its qualities of such singular particularity to try to capture the range of emotion it includes and inspires requires a skill I do not possess, and I would feel terrible if my inability to convey its beauty, passion, and necessariness, meant even one person who was considering reading it decided not to do so.

Thus, this: The frame of WHERE REASONS END is a series of conversations between a mother and her
Lolly K Dandeneau
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
via my blog:
'Since Nikolai’s death I had asked people to send poems. They came like birds from different lands, each carrying its own mourning notes.'

I felt the deep sorrow expressed in this novel so much I researched the author. I wondered, did she herself lose a son to suicide, only to discover more about Yuyin Li’s own breakdown. Li wrote a memoir Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life while she was struggling with deep depression. In Wher
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MLR Reading Group: May Book Club 1 4 Apr 27, 2021 07:20AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please add book cover ISBN 9781984817389 3 9 Dec 26, 2020 10:26AM  
Jane's Stories: Johnson Award Nominee: Where Reasons End 2 10 Aug 28, 2019 09:10AM  

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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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