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Extended Audio Sample The Vagrants Audiobook, by Yiyun Li Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (26 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: February 2009 ISBN: 9781440774829
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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.

Download and start listening now!

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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.”

    Newsweek

  • “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 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 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 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 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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Emma | 1/27/2014

    " Very good--the subject matter is really fascinating, and Li's deft handling of the omniscient point of view contributes to the haunting feel of the novel. I've loved her short stories in the past, and was pleased to see she can transfer her skills to a longer work. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle Lemaster | 1/19/2014

    " Such a beautiful and amazing book. There is this spare quality to her writing that I just adore. It's both elegant and humble at the same time. Gorgeous. This is absolutely a new favorite author of mine. I've been on a non-stop Yiyun Li kick since we first read her with my Mostly Literary Book Group. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paul | 1/8/2014

    " This portrayal of a town in rural China at the end of the 1970s is bleak, to say the least. It is well constructed, and there is a large cast of characters, each of whose fate is affected by the execution of a counter-revolutionary. There are certain areas that remain unclear, but the story flows well, and the reader can connect with a number of the main characters. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sam | 12/25/2013

    " Some of what happens is predictable but I just think the story is powerfully written. Glad I had the opportunity to read it and I will likely re-read it one day in the future. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sara | 12/12/2013

    " This book was good, but depressed me. Don't read this if you're in a bad state of mind... Unlike "The Kite Runner", I didn't get emotionally attached to any of the characters. It is well written, and if you're interested in this era of Chinese history, a worthy read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kyle | 10/16/2013

    " Amazing book! I loved it! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sarah | 8/30/2013

    " Great writing. Very depressing storyline. Found it difficult to root for any of the characters. Usually I love these kind of books but this one was tough. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christy | 6/28/2013

    " Pretty phenomenal. There are tons of books out there on the 1970's Cultural Revolution but few that sucked me in like this one. YL's writing is sparse and fluid. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lorna Schmalz | 5/27/2013

    " Great book about counter revolutionary events during Maoist communist China. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kristin Schmoldt | 5/23/2013

    " Decided to read this book after hearing an interview with the author on the Diane Rehm show. It was a wonderfully written story, though brutal, it rings true. I highly recommend for those who want to try to understand a different point of view. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Karen | 11/2/2012

    " Well written book about a small village in China ....late 1970's. A sad and depressing story about sad and depressed people both by their government and their poverty. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Erin | 3/8/2012

    " This book was interesting. It's about communist China in 1979, which happens to also be the year I was born. (Personally interesting) It focuses on several outcasts of society as a provincial town holds a rally aganist the regime and has to live with the consequences of their actions. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 11/14/2011

    " Phenomenal insight into what every day life could be like in 1979 China. Awesome story! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ann | 9/26/2011

    " Interesting about China in the 1950s and 60s. Loads of characters, each with their own stories centred around the execution of Shan a counterrevolutionary. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 6/20/2011

    " This tale of counter-revolutionary China is brutal, but emotionally and-seemingly--culturally authentic. It's a stirring, poignant reminder that freedom is no paltry gift. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nita | 5/12/2011

    " A difficult portrait of a horrible time in Chinese history told from the perspective of a few memorable characters. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sariah | 5/8/2011

    " Set in China just after the Cultural Revolution the story is about the people and town of Muddy River, and how the live and adapt to life in a totalitarion state. Li has created some remarkable characters and tells a story that stayed with me long after I finished the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Caroline | 3/13/2011

    " Beautifully written - sad. More 4.5 stars. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kasey | 3/3/2011

    " Great book! Hard to put down. Stories of individual characters blend wonderfully together in this novel about a Chinese town during the Communist Revolution. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cynthia | 2/25/2011

    " This was my Ann Richard group's East Asian novel. It's dark but great. And 1979 China is all new to me; I knew nothing prior to reading this. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Woodwren | 2/24/2011

    " One of the most beautiful and heart-breaking novels I've ever read. If you liked "The Wild Swans," or other books that cover life in China under Mao, give it a try. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shelley | 2/22/2011

    " Wonderful! This is a must read! "

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About the Author
Author Yiyun Li

Yiyun Li is the author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Vagrants. A native of Beijing and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is the recipient of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, the Whiting Writers’ Award, and the Guardian First Book Award. In 2007, Granta named her one of the best American novelists under thirty-five. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, A Public Space, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Prize Stories, among others. She teaches writing at the University of California, Davis, and lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and sons.

About the Narrator

Jackie Chung’s acting credits include several shot films, as well as appearances in television shows. Among her audiobook narrations are Gold Boy, Emerald Girl and The Vagrants, both by Yiyun Li.