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Little Gods: A Novel

Little Gods: A Novel


Little Gods: A Novel

ratings:
4/5 (47 ratings)
Length:
9 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jan 14, 2020
ISBN:
9780062988348
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

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.

Publisher:
Released:
Jan 14, 2020
ISBN:
9780062988348
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

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.



Reviews

What people think about Little Gods

3.9
47 ratings / 13 Reviews
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Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (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.