Summary

A profound mystery is at the heart of this magnificent new novel by Yiyun Li, "one of America's best young novelists" (Newsweek) and the celebrated author of The Vagrants, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Moving back and forth in time, and between America today and China in the 1990s, Kinder Than Solitude is the story of three people whose lives are changed by a murder one of them may have committed. As Boyang observes, "Even the most innocent person, when cornered, is capable of a heartless crime."

When Moran, Ruyu, and Boyang were young, they were involved in a mysterious "accident" in which a friend of theirs was poisoned. Now grown up and estranged, the three friends are separated by these events, and by time and distance. Moran and Ruyu live in the United States, Boyang in China, yet all three are haunted by what really happened that day, and by doubt about themselves. In California, Ruyu helps Celia care for her family and home, and avoids entanglements, as she has done all of her life. In Wisconsin, Moran visits her ex-husband, whose kindness once overcame her flight into solitude. In Beijing, Boyang struggles to deal with an inability to love, and with the outcome of what happened among the three friends twenty years ago.

Brilliantly written, a breathtaking page-turner, Kinder Than Solitude resonates with provocative observations about human nature and life. In mesmerizing prose, and with profound philosophical insight, Yiyun Li unfolds this remarkable story, even as she explores the impact of personality and the past on the shape of a person's present and future.

Advance praise for Kinder Than Solitude
 
"The surface of Yiyun Li's prose is deceptively still, but just beneath the surface are the sadness, pain, and tragedy of three lives, each one driven into a kind of damaged solitude by the memory of the past. Li's characters are portrayed with a harsh beauty, and one's emotions become deeply engaged with their fates, and with the mystery of a poisoned woman, a crime which has shaped--perhaps deformed--them all. This is an exceptional novel, and Yiyun Li has grown into one of our major novelists."--Salman Rushdie, author of Joseph Anton

"Kinder Than Solitude is a stunning, dark, and beautiful book. Yiyun Li writes with characteristic genius and hard, clear-eyed insight about characters ravaged by family and culture who attempt to sterilize, to quarantine, even to abandon their own hearts in order to immunize themselves against the pains of loneliness and hope. Both their successes and failures at doing so are tragic and true and soul-wrenching. By the end of the book, the reader's own heart feels exposed, fragile, and all the more precious for having taken part in Li's mysterious, artful novel."--Paul Harding, author of Tinkers and Enon
 
"Li is a high modernist. She infuses the traditional form with a fresh, rigorous beauty. Her novel is as clean and sharp and smart as a great piece of midcentury furniture, with that sense of permanence and increasing value."--Mona Simpson, author of My Hollywood
 
"I can't remember the last time I read a novel at once so relentless and elegant, so precise and ranging. The lives in Kinder Than Solitude are forever warped by a childhood tragedy, but Li won't let these tortured souls off the hook. This novel is fierce as a searchlight, blazing into every dark corner of  its characters' psyches, and ours. I couldn't look away."--Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie