A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

With great tenderness, tact and humor, these stories open a world that is culturally remote from us, and at the same time as humanly intimate as if its people were our own family and their thoughts the thoughts that lie nearest our own hearts.

-- Marilynne Robinson, the Pulitzer Prize winner,
author of Gilead and Housekeeping


Yiyun Li's first collection of short stories reminds you just how big a story can be, and how a wonderful collection—and this collection is more than wonderful, it is extraordinary—contains endless worlds and truths and pleasures. With wit, ruthlessness, and an understanding of human nature—its grand follies, private sorrows, and petty dreams—A Thousand Years of Good Prayers may remind you of Flannery O'Connor, though Li is an original. She'll make you laugh out loud, and then she'll break your heart. Read this book and marvel at a writer both at the height of her powers, and at the start of a brilliant career.

-- Elizabeth McCracken, author of The Giant House and
An Exact Replica of My Imagination


Yiyun Li is a true storyteller. Great stories offer us the details of life on the riverbanks: birth, family, dinner, and love, all framing the powerful flow of terror, death, political change, the river itself. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is as grand an epic and as tenderly private as a reader could wish.

-- Amy Bloom, author of Away



Li has an elegant way of delivering a story; ... there is a gracefulness to her style, a subtlety that runs throughout.

The Irish Times

Stylistically the stories recall folktales - stylised, somewhat one- dimensional; stream of consciousness is seldom used. We observe action and listen to dialogue. From that we must deduce thoughts and feelings. And we can, thanks to the writer's skill.

The Times [London]

Li's writing is beautifully spare and controlled. She shows how lives and personalities are shaped by historical change — in intimate ways not recorded in history books.

The Guardian [UK]

Yiyun has the talent, the vision and the respect for life's insoluble mysteries to be a truly fine writer. There is a strangeness at the heart of her fiction that comes from somewhere other than China - a world inside the author.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Li found just the right time and place to tell her luminous, beautifully-written tales of characters struggling to emerge from the shadows of a dark past.

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

Yiyun Li writes about everyday people, everyday life, and everyday joys and sorrows in a spare style that wastes no words. Each one is wellchosen, used in a quiet, unassuming manner, to create whole lives in the course of a dozen or so pages.

Washington Post Book World

It's one of those rare short story collections where you find yourself reading one perfectly realized gem after the next.

Los Angeles Times

"A Thousand Years of Good Prayers," stories set in China and America, are written in a quiet style dependent more on detail than sudden movement or violent overstatement: old-fashioned showing versus telling.

City Weekend (Beijing)

Li's stories surprise with their inventiveness, simplicity and dedication to presenting Chinese people as neither archetypes of socialist exoticism nor divorced from their cultural and historical circumstances.

The Village Voice
Writing in limpid prose, she shows no interest in authorial tricks.

The New York Times
Li does more than simply provide a human face for a set of statistics. Her compassion for her own creations persuades us that they are worth caring for.

The Christian Science Monitor

[Li] places readers in a variety of characters' shoes for a moment in time, long enough for them to get at least a glimpse of the historical, emotional, and cultural contexts that lie beyond.

The Providence Journal

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is not only an outstanding first book of fiction by a young writer, it is a literary event that transcends language. Li's stories express an inexpressible joy.

The Taipei Times

This originality doesn't consist of experimental modes of narration or quirkiness of prose style. It consists of the fact that the stories all deal with very different kinds of experiences, are told from a variety of viewpoints, and yet all share the same high level of intelligence.


The 10 stories introduce an accomplished, existing voice to the contemporary American fiction scene.


The stories in A Thousand Years of Good Prayers are both contemporary and universal. What's clear from this volume is that the delineations of this writer's talent have only begun to come into view.

O. The Oprah Magazine

Thoughtful, deceptively quiet, and always surprising, these seamless stories remind us that regardless of the society we inhabit, the most basic human emotions-love and longing, loneliness and regret-transcend history and geography, and are universal, timeless, and endlessly mysterious.

San Jose Mercury News

It's clear that Li has mastered the strategies of fiction. She elevates patient endurance to near-heroic stature in these stories of ordinary lives swept back and forth by the tides of history and politics. This book may be one of the year's most auspicious debuts.

San Francisco Chronicle

American readers can now celebrate that one of the best new fiction writers of the year learned English as a second language. Even when you employ the highest standard, which is to say, the Nabokovian standard, you have to admit that her book seems to be an extraordinary feat of intelligence and style.

Entertainment Weekly

[...] expertly plumb lives silenced by disappointment, where release can come in unexpected forms and as suddenly as a long-forgotten memory.

Library Journal

No matter the theme-be it human redundancy in an overpopulated country or the complex nature of the parent-child relationship-these stories are complex, moving, and surprising.

Kirkus Reviews

The author is one to watch.


Self-effacing maternal love, extreme societal pressures, betrayal, and peculiar convictions all make for provocative and memorable fiction that is simultaneously culturally specific and universal.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A beautifully executed debut collection. These are powerful stories that encapsulate tidily epic grief and longing.

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life

Kinder Than Solitude

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

The Vagrants

A Thousand Years of
Good Prayers

© Copyright 2005-2017 Yiyun Li