Authors Yiyun Li and Edmund White discussed their new novels, which detail their characters’ whole lives and how their choices affected their fates. In Must I Go, Li navigates—with great candor and insight—the twin poles of grief and resilience, loss and rebirth, that guide her seasoned protagonist Lilia Liska. White’s A Saint from Texas is a bold and sweeping story that traces the extraordinary fates of twin sisters, one destined for Parisian nobility and the other for Catholic sainthood. Noreen Tomassi, who retired as Executive Director in June, will moderate the discussion.
Must I Go
By Yiyun Li
Published by Random House
“One of our major novelists” (Salman Rushdie) tells the story of a woman reflecting on her uncompromising life, and the life of a former lover, in this provocative novel.
Lilia Liska has shrewdly outlived three husbands, raised five children, and seen the arrival of seventeen grandchildren. Now she has turned her keen attention to the diary of a long-forgotten man named Roland Bouley, with whom she once had a fleeting affair.
Increasingly obsessed with Roland’s intimate history, Lilia begins to annotate the diary with her own rather different version of events, revealing the surprising, long-held secrets of her past. She returns inexorably to the memory of her daughter Lucy. This is a novel about life in all its messy glory, and of a life lived, by the extraordinary Lilia, absolutely on its own terms. With great candor and insight, Yiyun Li navigates the twin poles of grief and resilience, loss and rebirth, that compass a human heart.
A Saint from Texas
By Edmund White
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
From Edmund White, a bold and sweeping new novel that traces the extraordinary fates of twin sisters, one destined for Parisian nobility and the other for Catholic sainthood.
Yvette and Yvonne Crawford are twin sisters, born on a humble patch of East Texas prairie but bound for far more dramatic and tragic fates. Just as an untold fortune of oil lies beneath their daddy’s land, both girls harbor their own secrets and dreams-ones that will carry them far from Texas and from each other. As the decades unfold, Yvonne will ascend the highest ranks of Parisian society as Yvette gives herself to a lifetime of worship and service in the streets of Jericó, Colombia. And yet, even as they remake themselves in their radically different lives, the twins find that the bonds of family and the past are unbreakable.
Spanning the 1950s to the recent past, Edmund White’s marvelous novel serves up an immensely pleasurable epic of two Texas women as their lives traverse varied worlds: the swaggering opulence of the Dallas nouveau riche, the airless pretension of the Paris gratin, and the strict piety of a Colombian convent. For nearly half a century, Edmund White’s work has revitalized American literature, blithely breaking down boundaries of class and sexuality, and A Saint From Texas is one of his most joyous, gorgeously written, and piercing works to date..