A Review of Yiyun Li’s ‘Where Reasons End’ (or brief notes on grief)

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It is difficult trying to reason with grief. It is even more difficult to find a language to write about something as stubborn and obstinate as the process of grieving the loss of a loved one. What words do we use? Which language do we resort to? How do we write about it in a way that creates a bridge rather that a wall?

That is what the narrator in Yiyun Li’s latest novel Where Reasons End does throughout the 90 pages of the book. It is a brief, meditative novel that majorly preoccupies itself with grief and loss and language. It is an imaginary back and forth conversation between a mother and her teenage son who has died from suicide right after they move to a new home. Nikolai, the teenager, tasks the mother with philosophical questions about “loss, grief, sorrow, bereavement and trauma” as she explains that: “One must live with loss and grief and sorrow and bereavement. …


A list of books I enjoyed reading in 2019

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This list is coming a little too late — as we are already in 2020 — but I promised I would publish it, if not for anything else but for self-accountability. I was going to limit it to 10 but two books sneaked it at the last moment. The books here are not just those published in 2019 but of those books that I read for the first time in this year.

Also, there is certainly no ranking whatsoever.

I am so pleased that this powerful novel/collection of interconnected stories won the Booker Prize this year because, reading it now, I find it deserving of all the accolades and more. It is both a reinvention and subversion of form and language — the two things I am most curious about in my work and the work of others — and it manages perfectly to fuse that with issues of race, sexuality, womanhood, migration, etc without feeling burdened at all. Bernardine is truly a master by the way she weaves the various stories that come to intersect and fit into the larger canvas. Each character is necessary and moves the wheel of the story forward while showing us their lived life and how they navigate the obstacles presented to them. The 12 women (and the other minor characters) all manage to stand out in a way that makes the novel “polyphonic” and no one drowns out the voice of the other.

The poetic style she uses allows her to abandon the traditional narrative structure and to perform the task — albeit a difficult one — of presenting the story to us as it comes. This makes it an enjoyable read even when sometimes the length of the pages dedicated to each character feels constricting, and you wish you’d spend more time with a certain character and less with the other. …


A Review of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s ‘Manchester Happened’.

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There is a bold mastery with which the Ugandan novelist and short story writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi writes that certainly places her as one of the most exciting writers presently creating work. …

About

Troy Onyango

Reader • Writer • Editor • Website: troyonyango.com • ‘Show? To who?’ — Sula

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