Cover Image: Little Gods

Little Gods

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Member Reviews

The premise of this story was good. In fact I enjoyed the beginning but then it got bogged down in an almost transcendental bent, using physics, to explain Su Lan's mental illness.  It doesn't appear her daughter registers that her mother was ill. Also, the incongruity of meeting Zhang Bo and he immediately openng up to her. Seeing her real father and then pretending he never existed or died in Tianamen Square. None of this rang true for me. Perhaps if there wasn't the constant distraction of explaining the Fourth Dimension I would have feld differently. Not a book I would recommend..
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Enjoyed Meng Jin's novel and perspective.  Sometimes the structure of Jin's story took me out of it and I didn't always understand where the narrative shifts were coming from. Nevertheless I enjoyed the examination of the mother/daughter relationship and what it means to be a parent and an immigrant.
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This novel follows a 17 year old, as she searches for answers about her mother in China, who died in the US. When she travels to China on a whim because of a note she finds in her mother's belongings, to find her father she has never met. 

When she arrives in China, a complicated story begins to unspool as she searches for answers.

Overall good read.
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3 stars

As I sit down to write this review, I’m struggling a bit because I’m trying to figure out what my feelings are toward this book.  Normally, when I read a book, I will either gravitate towards one side or another in terms of liking the book or not liking it – interestingly enough, this is actually one of those rare instances where I feel ambivalent and perhaps, if I’m being honest, not really sure how to react.  While there were definitely things that I appreciated about this book – such as the historical and cultural references, which I thought were incorporated seamlessly throughout the story -- there were an equal amount of things that made the reading experience a bit more exhausting than I would’ve liked.  

The structure of the narrative is unique in that, even though the main character of the story is Su Lan, a Chinese woman who overcomes her village upbringing to become a brilliant physicist, we as readers never get to “meet” this character directly.  Instead, we are given glimpses into Su Lan’s life through the recollections of those who had interacted with her or had been a part of her life at some point – a nameless nurse at the hospital in Beijing where Su Lan had given birth; Zhu Wen, who was Su Lan’s landlady when she lived in Shanghai and also the last person Su Lan interacted with before leaving China; Su Lan’s husband Yongzong, with whom she had daughter; and finally Liya, the daughter with whom Su Lan had a strained, complicated relationship.  Through these anecdotal recollections, almost all of which were told from each character’s first-person perspective, we are slowly given the various “pieces” that eventually come together to form an enigmatic portrait of Su Lan’s life.  This narrative structure was indeed interesting, however by the end of the story, I actually felt confusion rather than clarity, as each character seemed to paint conflicting images of Su Lan, to the point that, despite being told so much about her, I still felt like I never really “knew” her.

I think the biggest issue I had with this book was the writing, which I would describe as being a little too “experimental” for my tastes.  I know other reviewers mentioned the lack of quotation marks for all the dialogue, which didn’t bother me too much actually.  Instead, what didn’t work too well for me was the abstract quality of the writing, especially with the descriptions of events that took place or things that were happening to the characters — I’m not sure if I’m describing this correctly, but it felt almost as though the story and the characters kept “shape-shifting” from one scene to the next.  For example, the scene would be about Liya encountering someone from Su Lan’s past and suddenly, Liya would become Su Lan, wearing the same clothes as her, thinking the same thoughts as her, but then the next minute, she would be Liya again.  Throughout most of the story, it felt like the characters kept jumping in and out of dreams and memories that would get mixed in with their current realities – this made trying to follow the story quite a bit more difficult than it really needed to be.  In addition, interspersed through the story were mentions about various aspects of science – more specifically, about theoretical physics as it pertains to human behavior, the laws of thermodynamics and its relation to time, mathematical theory and probability, etc. – all of which went way over my head, as I’ve never been interested in science or math and so had no clue what any of that stuff was about.  Thankfully, the segments that actually went into detail about the science aspects were few and far between and also relatively brief, which made it a tad less tortuous but definitely added to the difficulty in following the story.

Also, despite this being a largely character-driven story, I actually didn’t feel much of a connection with the characters, even though the fact that we share the same culture should’ve made it easier.  In addition, I felt a sense of being emotionally detached from the story and the characters, which, thinking about it now, I’m wondering if that was intentional on the author’s part, given that all the characters themselves seemed to also be emotionally detached from the subject they were reminiscing about (Su Lan).

Overall, I would say that this was a “different” reading experience for me.  It wasn’t completely negative of course (otherwise my scoring would be lower), but I wouldn’t say it was hugely positive either.  While I appreciate what the author was trying to do here and applaud her for breaking from tradition and delivering a well-written (in the larger scheme of things) literary debut that is both unique and thought-provoking, I recognize that perhaps I just wasn’t the right audience for this book.  Hopefully the “right” audience for this book will be able to read and appreciate it better than I have.

Received ARC from Custom House (HarperCollins) via NetGalley.
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How much do we really know about our parents? Most likely, its not until they are gone that we want to know more about them. Su Lan, a brilliant physicist gives birth to Liya in a Beijing hospital at the same time her husband caught up in the student protests disappears. Liya has a lonely childhood as her mother gets a visa to continue her education in America and they move from place to place. They grow apart and Liya is at college when she hears of her mother’s death. Returning to China, she learns more about her mother and her father. Told in the different voices of people who knew her mother, the story is both sad and uplifting in how Liya learns who her father is and attempts to return her mother’s ashes to her grandmother.
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A vibrant novel that intertwines the past, present, the US, China, the living and the dead. Complex and spare it’s beautifully written.

**I received an electronic ARC from NetGally in exchange for a fair and unbiased review of this book.
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I enjoyed hearing from different characters in this book, particularly Zhu Wen.  I wish the entire book has been about her, because it didn’t feel like there was much to Liya outside of her consuming obsession with her mother. This is my own personal problem, but I had trouble deciphering why people acted the way they did in this book, leading to a disjointed sort of feeling, not aided by the structure of the book which, in other circumstances with a clearer sense of characters I would have found compelling.
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I enjoyed this book so much that weeks after reading its hard to form the proper words to express & describe this story. I will say this; Little Gods was a great read and I can’t wait to read more from this author. 

Thank you, Harper Collins for gifting me this DARC via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Over all this was a 4/5 star read.
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Literary fiction at its best a story of mother’s and daughters .A book that drew me in from the first pages.There have been rave reviews and I am adding mine to them#netgalley#harpercollins
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I've already seen this book getting a ton of buzz and it's so worth it. Though I didn't connect with the story as deeply as I would've liked, I can appreciate how well-written this debut novel is. My interest was immediately captured with the first chapter and I would've loved to revisit the nurse character later on, though beginning the book with her perspective gave the entire story a cinematic quality. The characters were all complicated in the best ways. Every book isn't for every reader and I wouldn't call this one a favorite, but its artistry cannot be denied. Well done.
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Meng Jin’s debut novel is shiny but flawed, packed with beautiful prose and interesting characters that sometimes left me wishing I could connect with them on a deeper level. The story was slow to start and never quite packed the punch I was hoping it would, but the writing style kept me reading nonetheless. While I cared about the characters perhaps a little less than I should have, the most interesting aspect was seeing Su Lan presented not through her own point of view but through the points of view of those who knew her—it really makes you stop and think about the impression you leave on people and, ultimately, the legacy you’ll one day leave behind. I look forward to seeing this author’s work in the future!
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Beautiful cover art but I did not connect to any of the characters in "Little Gods". The tone felt awkward. I also didn't care for the writing style. It really bugged me that there wasn't any quotation marks for the dialogue. I found it extremely difficult to understand which character was speaking to whom. Normally I enjoy reading about conflicted mother/daughter relationships, but I just felt there wasn't enough character development. The characters weren't fleshed-out enough for my liking. Nothing about the plot was memorable. I'd rather watch paint dry. Slow and underwhelming. A huge disappointment. 

Thank you, Netgalley and Harper Collins for the advance reader's copy. 

Release date: January 14, 2020
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I have a lot of complicated feelings about this one, which always seems to be the case with a three-star book. Little Gods is a portrait of three main characters who are all connected to a fourth character, Su Lan; their perspectives combine to create a portrait of her as well. Zhu Wen lived in the same building as Su Lan in Shanghai and helped her raise her infant daughter. Yongzong went to school with Su Lan and later married her, leaving her on the day of their daughter’s birth. And Liya is Su Lan’s only child, who spent most of her life in America but returns to China with her mother’s ashes.

The characters were easily what I liked best about this book; they were complex and realistic and sympathetic and flawed. I appreciated the deep dive into the three main characters’ lives. Over the course of this short book, I came to understand their histories, motivations, and personalities surprisingly intimately. Learning about Su Lan through their eyes, with only their memories and impressions of her and no insight into her innermost thoughts and feelings, was fascinating. It makes you wonder what people think about you, and what they’ll remember about you after you’re gone.

There were a few things that bothered me about the writing style: the lack of quotation marks to indicate when characters are speaking, the use of second person language (you/your/yours) when Zhu Wen or Yongzong referred to Liya. Nothing I thought was objectively bad but things that, subjectively, just weren’t to my taste. I always prefer when authors stick to the traditional way of writing rather than getting all experimental, which distracts from the story. Maybe that’s why literary fiction isn’t my favorite genre. In addition, the brief explanations of the theoretical physics concepts that Su Lan studied were over my head.

Little Gods navigates the relationships between people: friends, husbands and wives, mothers and daughters. It seamlessly explores themes of immigration, disability, grief, memory, revolution, and the forward movement of time. I’m torn between three and four stars because wasn’t consistently drawn into the story and for the most part found it easy to put down, although there were points, especially toward the end, when it succeeded in making me feel very strongly.
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I do not consider myself to be a highly intelligent person when it comes to theoretical anything, however, I hound myself completely drawn in and immersed in this story.
Little Gods is a story about a woman running FROM her past, trying recreate herself and by doing so, her own daughter had to travel to her past TO figure out exactly who her mother was. I LOVED the way the story is told from different times throughout the book in the voices of 3 main characters, all of who crossed paths and lost each other along the way.
I had to go back and re read the final chapter, but I THINK I fully comprehend what the author was doing, especially in the past few paragraphs.
I did not realize that this is the authors first novel, I’m very excited to see what comes next from her!
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2.5 stars

A rather haunting story about a daughter's search for her mother and the exploration of the enduring and complicated relationship between them. The writing could be especially poignant at times, and the relationship between Liya and Su Lan, a convoluted mix of love and hatred, was expertly portrayed. I appreciated the way Su Lan's story was presented through the perspectives of other characters at various times in her life. She was a complex character, fully three dimensional with positive attributes existing right alongside very serious flaws. Liya, on the other hand, felt half-formed.. She seemed more of a vessel to transport her mother's story than an actual flesh and blood human being. I'm not sure the addition of physics theories worked well here, either; it could be confusing and detracted from the story at times. I finished the story impressed by the author's storytelling abilities but the characters and their stories didn't stay with me after I read the last page, hence the 2.5 star rating. However, I do think this is an excellent choice for book clubs as there is much to unpack and discuss. 

Thank you to Netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Reading this novel was like diving into the ocean and being caught in wave after wave of stories that sweep you along for the ride. Su Lan gives birth in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square Massacre. This event serves as a the fulcrum of the story as it plays out both before and after, told through the eyes of the characters that orbit Su Lan's world: her husband, Yongzong, old friend Zhang Bo, daughter Liya and more. This is a compelling read that takes you across a generation in China and each section transports you to a different time and place while also describing unique characters and experiences along the way. Su Lan is a gifted physicist who seeks answers about questions more complex than most can understand. Her experience of growing up poor, brilliant and female in China intersects with Yongzong has the road smoothed for him...if only he'll step up and take what's offered. This is story of mothers, daughters, love, heartbreak, class, immigration and the masks we wear to succeed, to protect and to simply exist. 

I'd read this again, if only to experience the sensation of trying to grasp the heart of the story that seems to slip away just when I think I have my fingers wrapped around it.  This might be both the beauty and the truth of the novel, that we each live in our own version of reality. Who was Su Lan? It depends on who you ask...and who she decided to be for them. 

Read this if you love a beautiful novel that takes place in a country outside of the United States that makes you think about life, love, and time. (Advanced copy read courtesy of NetGalley. Opinions are my own.)
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I loved the premise of this book....a strong misunderstood and perhaps young woman whose whole existence is altered after the birth of her daughter and the disappearance of her husband. A very compelling read but the end left many things unresolved.
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This is an excellent, moving book about dreams and reality and more dreams.  It also touches on history, time and the role that the past plays in shaping our present and future.

The book introduces several points of view.  At times this can be confusing, but mostly it is effective.  We first hear from a nurse who is on duty in the maternity ward during the Tiananmen Square debacle in 1989.  She meets a patient, Su Lan, who asks her a haunting question, "Do you believe in time?"  Without knowing why, the nurse guesses that this is the beginning of Su Lan's spiritual death.  We then hear from the characters who have occupied Su Lan's lonely, nomadic life:  an elderly neighbor who helps with the baby, Sue Lan's former husband who is presumed to have died at Tiananmen Square,  her close, brilliant male friend who is in love with her, and her daughter, who when confronted with her mother's death, returns to China to seek answers.

Through all these eyes, a compelling portrait of Su Lan emerges, one that is filled with contradictions.  And in the end, Liya, her daughter, must decide what to believe and what to let go.  Lila searches for herself through the cosmic fingerprint of her mother.  Well written, this is an important book that speaks to our times.
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