Wednesday’s Child: Stories

Farrar. Sept. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9780374606374. $27. F
MacArthur Fellow Li’s (The Book of Goose) latest is an evocative and melancholy collection of short stories. These deeply introspective stories explore life and parenting amid loss and mourning; often, the focus is on parents who have lost a child. Grief deeply permeates the collection, but Li seems uninterested in seeking answers to relieve that suffering. Instead, the stories delve into the pain the characters experience and how it affects their everyday lives: a traveling woman (whose teenage daughter died by suicide) still hears her daughter’s voice refuting her thoughts; a grieving mother catalogs every death she has personally experienced; a mourning professor becomes deeply involved in her hairdresser’s tragic teenage love story. Even the stories not centered around death—such as a live-in nanny who refuses to get attached to anyone, even the children she cares for, or a mother trying to guide her children in the modern world—explore feelings of isolation and the difficult undertaking to connect with others.
VERDICT Insightful yet matter of fact, Li’s beautiful and heartbreaking collection about lost lives, connections, and opportunities resonates. A striking addition to any short story collection.
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