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Publisher's Summary

A fearless writer confronts grief and transforms it into art, in a book of surprising beauty and love, "a masterpiece by a master” (Elizabeth McCracken, Vanity Fair).

"Li has converted the messy and devastating stuff of life into a remarkable work of art.” (The Wall Street Journal)

The narrator of Where Reasons End writes, “I had but one delusion, which I held on to with all my willpower: We once gave Nikolai a life of flesh and blood; and I’m doing it over again, this time by words.” 

Yiyun Li meets life’s deepest sorrows as she imagines a conversation between a mother and child in a timeless world. Composed in the months after she lost a child to suicide, Where Reasons End trespasses into the space between life and death as mother and child talk, free from old images and narratives. Deeply moving, these conversations portray the love and complexity of a relationship. 

Written with originality, precision, and poise, Where Reasons End is suffused with intimacy, inescapable pain, and fierce love. 

“The most intelligent, insightful, heart-wrenching book of our time. I will be pressing this into everybody’s hands, saying: ‘Read this, read this now.’” (Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less

“I received Yiyun Li’s galley tonight, began almost against my will, and have now just closed it. Some of the words forming are ones that Nikolai would find fault with so I will swallow them. But I sit here shaken and, I think, changed by this work.” (Katherine Boo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Where Reasons End is about the saddest thing in the world, and yet the experience of reading it is mysterious and expansive, as though the limits of all things - language, love, and life - are further than we ever imagined. These stories - astonishing in their compassion, their scope, their private jokes, and their longing - are for anyone who has ever wished that a loved one could have found a way to stay a little longer. An extraordinary book by one of our most extraordinary writers.” (Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck & Other Stories)

©2019 Yiyun Li (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“A mother and her lost teenage son have conversations in a middle-life between this one and the next in this triumph of compassion and language, suffused with love and all its attendant parts: private jokes, fond grudges, beloved arguments. A masterpiece by a master.” (Elizabeth McCracken, Vanity Fair)

“Memoirs often demand something from their readers: absolution for flaws, sympathy for travails, admiration for triumphs. Novels tend to be more generous, but Where Reasons End is an especially rare work of alchemy. With this book, Ms. Li has converted the messy and devastating stuff of life into a remarkable work of art.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“The most intelligent, insightful, heart-wrenching book of our time. I will be pressing this into everybody’s hands, saying: ‘Read this, read this now.’” (Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less)

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  • LJ
  • 2019-04-15

A Story of Words that Go Beyond Itself

Yiyun LI masterfully dialogues with her deceased son and the poignancy of their lost relationship takes on a life energy that opens the heart and disavows its conceit-that this is all a mother’s projection in order to spare herself the sense that her son is gone.

The exquisite nature of their rapport, their shared love of language, ideas, music, poetry, baking, knitting all are used to reflect memory, emotion, and experiential immediacy for the reader. While the conversation is sometimes competitive, sometimes humorous, it is always evocative. Yiyun LI needs to live in words and uses these words to resurrect her son. How long can I be a fly on the wall I began to wonder. I didn’t want this book to end like Yiyun LI didn’t want her son to take his life. This book is powerful, beautifully constructed, and completely unnerving.