Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li - review by Matt Rowland Hill

Matt Rowland Hill

Strange Meeting

Where Reasons End


Hamish Hamilton 170pp £12.99

Where Reasons End, the sixth book by the Chinese-American author Yiyun Li, contains many heartbreaking moments, but the saddest occurs in its dedication: ‘in memory of Vincent Kean Li (2001–2017)’. It’s impossible to read this story of an unnamed Chinese-American author reckoning with the suicide of her sixteen-year-old son except in the shadow cast by those words and those painfully abbreviated dates. Just a few months have passed since the boy’s death, but for his mother time no longer means what it used to: ‘The days he had refused would come, one at a time. Neither my allies nor my enemies, they would wait, every daybreak, with their boundless patience and indifference, seeing if they could turn me into a friend or an enemy to myself.’

Although billed as a novel, the book contains few of the raw materials of conventional realistic fiction. There’s no suspense or drama and little in the way of backstory, setting or character development. Instead, its sixteen short chapters – one for each year of the boy’s life – record,

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