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Extended Audio Sample The Vagrants, by Yiyun Li Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,303 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Yiyun Li Narrator: Jackie Chung Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In luminous prose, award-winning author Yiyun Li weaves together the lives of unforgettable characters who are forced to make moral choices, and choices for survival, in China in the late 1970s. 

As morning dawns on the provincial city of Muddy River, a spirited young woman, Gu Shan, once a devoted follower of Chairman Mao, has renounced her faith in Communism. Now a political prisoner, she is to be executed for her dissent. While Gu Shan’s distraught mother makes bold decisions, her father begins to retreat into memories. Neither of them imagines that their daughter’s death will have profound and far-reaching effects, in Muddy River and beyond. Among the characters affected are Kai, a beautiful radio announcer who is married to a man from a powerful family; Tong, a lonely seven-year-old boy; and Nini, a hungry young girl. Beijing is being rocked by the Democratic Wall Movement, an anti-Communist groundswell designed to move the country toward a more enlightened and open society, but the government backlash will be severe.

In this spellbinding novel, the brilliant Yiyun Li gives us a powerful and beautiful portrait of human courage and despair in dramatic times.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Li honed two valuable aspects of her writing talent. She is a keen observer of even the cruelest workaday details…[and] Ms. Li’s second gift is for soap-operatic plotting of the sort that has given down-home emotional impetus to ostensibly exotic best sellers like Memoirs of a Geisha. She puts this talent to highly effective use in The Vagrants. Though this novel is at heart a collection of overlapping separate stories, Ms. Li links them with touches of melodrama and well-timed accidents of fate.”

    New York Times

  • “Extraordinary…beautifully paced, exquisitely detailed…In this most amazing first novel, Yiyun Li has found a way to combine the jeweled precision of her short-story-writer’s gaze with a spellbinding vision of the power of the human spirit.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “A powerful and thoughtful novel…[Li’s] become a terrific writer. She doesn’t condemn or condescend to a single soul here, just makes us see how nerve-racking and soul-killing it must be to live in a despotic nation run by a lot of very high-strung people. For readers who love complex novels about worlds we scarcely understand, The Vagrants will be a revelation.”

    Washington Post

  • “[Li is] one of America’s best young novelists.”


  • “Li offers both a bleak view of a historical moment when people were the most dangerous animals in the world and a meditation on the act of martyrdom, which is presented both as a duty and as a luxury that few could afford.” 

    New Yorker

  • The Vagrants establishes Li as an important new voice in American fiction.”

    Amazon.com, editorial review

  • “[A] magnificent and jaw-droppingly grim novel…Li records these events dispassionately and with such a magisterial sense of direction that the reader can’t help being drawn into the novel, like a sleeper trapped in an anxiety dream.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Unflinching and mesmerizing, Li traces the contagion of evil with stunning precision and compassion in this tragic and beautiful novel of conscience.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • A 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Finalist
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month, February 2009
  • A 2009 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize Finalist
  • An ALA Notable Book Finalist for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Don | 2/19/2014

    " Interesting insights into what it was like to live in a culture of suspicion and longing for more. There are a lot of characters to track, but the varied points of view prove interesting in looking at the changes in the social structure and the aspirations of each. I would recommend this book to those wondering about China and her development over the years. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Jaimie | 2/11/2014

    " I think it is a great story of suppression of a people who desperately wanted to have their freedom. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Elise | 2/10/2014

    " Reading this and Home has made me want to read another novel. What next? Any suggestions? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Jalon Fowler | 2/10/2014

    " overall enjoyed the book and fond it very touching and thought provoking. i liked the view into the same situation by different people. since it was historical fiction-y, i wish that there was some sort of prologue and/or time line to prepare you for the story. kudos to the author for showing the complexity and giving voices to this extremely oppressive time. "

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