Little Gods

Little Gods

A Novel

Book - 2019 | First edition
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On the night of June Fourth, 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 seventeen 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.
Publisher: New York, NY : Custom House, [2019]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9780062935953
Branch Call Number: FIC Jin
Characteristics: 279 pages ; 24 cm

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STPL_JessH May 08, 2020

I just finished Little Gods and found it really disappointing. It is a quest narrative without a clear protagonist or even a clear resolution of the plot. This is the worst kind of disappointment because the prose is laced with potential. If this book had been composed by a single narrator telling one story with many parts, it would have made a beautiful whole. Instead, we have a disjointed group of stories that do not connect with authenticity. It as though a number of strings are side by side instead of being woven into a tight web.
There are moments of lovely and poetic writing but they are overshadowed by flat characters that lack depth. The most interesting character is described by others. Readers have little direct contact with her. This is a risky choice that ultimately does not prove rewarding.
 It wouldn't say that I disliked this novel; it was just so disappointing. It lacks the gusto and passion of other debuts. There is too much of a gap between the philosophical discourse of physics and the day to day hurts people inflict upon one another. It seems as though the novel was designed with the intention of telling a specific story instead of letting characters or plot grow and develop. I am ambivalent on the question of recommending or not. Up to you, reader.

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brangwinn
Jan 23, 2020

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.

debwalker Jan 18, 2020

Generations of Chinese immigrants.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jan 15, 2020

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.

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