Two absorbing collections from two gifted storytellers. Yiyun Li fissures oppressive Communist China with her blunt prose in A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, laying bare the damaged people underneath: men who dutifully show up for work after the government has let them go; women who silently bear their desperation over a lost lover, a hidden daughter, a husband ravaged by dementia. Meanwhile, in The Turning‘s stark, connected stories set in his native Western Australia, Tim Winton tenderly extends his broken characters a delicate grace: A man confronts an alcoholic father while his mother lies on her deathbed; a wife travels alone to her husband’s hometown week after week to gather clues to a past that still troubles him deeply. Both authors expertly plumb lives silenced by disappointment, where release can come in unexpected forms and as suddenly as a long-forgotten memory.
We gave it an A-