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The Book of Goose


The Book of Goose

THE BOOK OF GOOSE by award-winning author Yiyun Li masterfully explores the enduring power of friendship and the resilience that such a deep and abiding love can have on a life, long after the person who gives it is gone. A post-WWII novel that shares a sensibility with Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet and Vera Brittain’s famed Testament series of memoirs, the book is a sharp, incisive, modern look at a long-ago distressed world and the ways in which two girls made use of their natural caring and imagination to impact one of their lives forever.

"THE BOOK OF GOOSE will give readers a unique experience. It is not a work to be rushed through; rather, it is to be savored and pored over, page by page."

Fabienne and Agnès grow up together in the French countryside. The story of their friendship is revealed little by little by Agnès, now a young married woman caring for geese on her own farm in the United States. The shadow of her friendship with the irascible Fabienne is long, and she continues to affect Agnès’ life, although their communication is cut off by life events. When the news finally reaches Agnès that Fabienne has died, she begins to tell us their remarkable story.

Fabienne is the one who helped Agnès escape from France and come to the States. Here, Agnès created a life that led to fame and fortune, followed by terrific loss. But the imaginative world that she and Fabienne created in the midst of their war-torn country life continued to inform and conflict with their realities, as Agnès describes. And so THE BOOK OF GOOSE becomes an emotional testament to how one great sacrifice can upend and extend the life of one good friend.

The theme of national versus personal identity has been a main thoroughfare throughout Li’s (still growing) oeuvre. And with each subsequent story, she dives deeper into the collective unconscious from the Greatest Generation to today. These days, tales of female friendship, bonding and sacrifice are more likely to contain revenge plots and dire angry ploys against each other. However, the score that is to be settled here is really about how some of us are lucky enough to have someone who pushes us gently out of the nest in order to see us fly. This is one such story.

Li’s book is also about being an artist. As one creates, what does one borrow from someone else’s story? If one uses an experience that was shared with or by another, whose story is it? Who is allowed to tell it? It’s an age-old problem that Li uses to her character’s benefit --- and as Agnès tries to reconcile her good luck with the pain of the past, the question remains up for discussion. It is a viable and fascinating read into the artist’s sense of responsibility --- to memory, to others, to what is fodder and what is not for a new story.

THE BOOK OF GOOSE will give readers a unique experience. It is not a work to be rushed through; rather, it is to be savored and pored over, page by page. The confident stride of Li’s words is meant to resonate long past the story she tells in these pages, and it does so incredibly well.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on October 7, 2022

The Book of Goose
by Yiyun Li

  • Publication Date: August 8, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 1250872413
  • ISBN-13: 9781250872418