It was only when I started describing Little Gods to people that I realized how seamlessly debut novelist Meng Jin integrates the huge, complicated themes of revolution, rebirth, time, and language into an intimate story, without sacrificing their grandeur or significance. At its heart, Little Gods is the story of a scientist, Su Lan, whose brilliance both attracts and alienates the people who love her. While her husband, child, and friends circle around her like planets to a sun, she struggles to use her fire to light the way forward and incinerate the past. Set against the backdrop of the 1989 student uprisings in China, and later in the anonymity and dislocation of the American immigrant experience, Little Gods is a beautiful exploration of how the political is the personal, and of the invisible cords that tie us to our histories — both private and collective — despite our best efforts to only look forward. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Meng Jin’s debut novel manages to be both epic and economic as it crosses decades and thousands of miles. Ultimately, it is a moving meditation on shifting identities and the lasting effects of dislocation. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Named a Best Book of Winter by Vogue - USA Today - Electric Literature - PopSugar - Alma
"Meng Jin is a writer whose sweep is as intimate as it is global. Little Gods is a novel about the heart-wracking ways in which we move through history and time. A fierce and intelligent debut from a writer with longitude and latitude embedded in her vision." Colum McCann, New York Times bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin
Combining the emotional resonance of Home Fire with the ambition and innovation of Asymmetry, a lyrical and thought-provoking debut novel that explores the complex web of grief, memory, time, physics, history, and selfhood in the immigrant experience, and the complicated bond between daughters and mothers.
On the night of June Fourth, a woman gives birth in a Beijing hospital alone. Thus begins the unraveling of Su Lan, a brilliant physicist who until this moment has successfully erased her past, fighting what she calls the mind's arrow of time.
When Su Lan dies unexpectedly seventeen years later, it is her daughter Liya who inherits the silences and contradictions of her life. Liya, who grew up in America, takes her mother's ashes to China — to her, an unknown country. In a territory inhabited by the ghosts of the living and the dead, Liya's memories are joined by those of two others: Zhu Wen, the woman last to know Su Lan before she left China, and Yongzong, the father Liya has never known. In this way a portrait of Su Lan emerges: an ambitious scientist, an ambivalent mother, and a woman whose relationship to her own past shapes and ultimately unmakes Liya's own sense of displacement.
A story of migrations literal and emotional, spanning time, space and class, Little Gods is a sharp yet expansive exploration of the aftermath of unfulfilled dreams, an immigrant story in negative that grapples with our tenuous connections to memory, history, and self.
"Meng Jin writes beautifully on the mysteries of the past, both politically and personally, both as a universal burden to be carried collectively and as a conveyance for our individual liberation...Stunning." Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, author of Brief Encounters with the Enemy
"Meng Jin's beautiful debut novel is ambitious in the best ways: meticulously observed, daringly imagined, rich in character and history. Ranging across continents, cultures and generations, Jin poses profound questions: how might we know ourselves, or the people we love? And what truths, if any, travel with us?"
"Skillfully revealed, exquisitely rendered." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Artfully composed and emotionally searing, Jin's debut about lost girls, bottomless ambition, and the myriad ways family members can hurt and betray one another is gripping from beginning to end. This is a beautiful, intensely moving debut." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
About the Author
Meng Jin was born in Shanghai and lives in San Francisco. A Kundiman Fellow, she is a graduate of Harvard and Hunter College. Little Gods is her first novel.
Meng Jin on PowellsBooks.Blog
It was only when I started describing Little Gods
to people that I realized how seamlessly debut novelist Meng Jin integrates the huge, complicated themes of revolution, rebirth, time, and language into an intimate story, without sacrificing their grandeur or significance...