“Expands the future of the immigrant novel. ” – Gish Jen, New York Times Book Review
“Spectacular and emotionally polyphonic…That Jin has managed to craft such an intimate, emotionally complex story is an awesome achievement. That she managed to do it in her debut novel, doubly so. ” – Omar El Akkad, BookPage (starred review)
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.
Seventeen years later, Su Lan’s daughter, Liya, brings her mother’s ashes to China, along with the silences and contradictions of Su Lan’s life. 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 history 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.