25 Aug / The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li [in Booklist]
Yiyun Li’s fiction since her son’s tragic suicide seems to have catapulted her away from the Asian roots that define her earlier award-winning fiction. Her latest begins on a pastoral farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where Agnès, known as the “French bride,” lives with her husband without children but with chickens and geese with French names.
A letter from her mother announces that Agnès’ childhood best friend, Fabienne, at just 27, is dead in their home village of Saint-Rémy. Agnès has already warned readers, “The name you should pay attention to in this story is Fabienne”; Fabienne’s death gives Agnès the permission to become a writer of truth – her truth, anyway – reclaiming her life, her memories, and her words after unwanted teenage fame as a “faux-prodigy” author. “The real story was beyond our ability to tell: our girlhood, our friendship, our love – all monumental, all inconsequential. The world had no place for two girls like us.”
From post-WWII rural France, where there was never enough, to a posh finishing school in England, Li creates an achingly controlled narrative simmering with desperation to be truly seen and heard.
Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, August 2022