Immersed in grief, a novelist constructs a conversation with her son in the weeks following the 16-year-old's suicide. In Where Reasons End, Yiyun Li--PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author of six previous books--combines the despair of losing a child with the articulate and often impatient observations from the teenager in a brief, heartbreaking imagining of a parent desperately wishing her son back to life.
The repartee between Mommy and Nikolai meanders "in a world unspecified in time and space." Their conversation ranges from playful to tragic, often detouring to banter about clichés, or parts of speech, or memories. The longer these debates (which Nikolai inevitably wins) continue, the longer he'll be with the writer, one senses. He accuses her of being "wimpy," which leads her to mourn that The Diary of a Wimpy Kid has a new installment, which he would "never read now." She confides that she relives dropping him off on the day he died, when she accidentally passes the intersection "where I last saw you" he says. "That line should be mine," she thinks. "Mine, too," he says.
This sorrowful novel is a meditation on bereavement, with contemplative conversations between mother and son interspersed with the concrete symbols of loss--the new house he won't live in, the books he won't read. "We once gave Nikolai a life of flesh and blood; and I'm doing it over again, this time by words," Mommy writes. Where Reasons End leaves us achingly sad, but moved by the beauty of undying love. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco