BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Seventh Day by Yu Hua, translated by Allan H. Barr [in Library Journal]

Yang Fei is dead. Arriving at the funeral parlor as directed, he’s denied eternal rest because he has “neither urn nor grave”; over the next seven days, he revisits his short 41 years.

Yang Fei was temporarily famous as “the boy a train gave birth to,” having accidentally slipped from his birthmother through a toilet opening on a moving train; he was rescued by a railway employee who became his devoted father. When Yang Jinbiao falls morbidly ill, Yang Fei abandons job and home to care for him. Unwilling to drain Yang Fei further, Yang Jinbiao disappears, setting in motion an afterlife journey for both father and son.

Verdict: Arguably China’s best-known contemporary writer (To Live, adapted into Zhang Yimou’s acclaimed film; the Man Asian Prize-shortlisted Brothers), Yu offers a new work that is surprisingly gentler than his previous titles. Although the author retains his signature outlook of an absurdist new China with little regard for humanity – 27 fetuses floating down a river, iPhones worth more than life, kidney harvesting from willing young bodies – this latest is ultimately less graphic exposé and more poignant fable about family bonds made not of blood ties but unbreakable heartstrings. It will assuredly reward Yu’s readers, familiar and new.

Review: “Fiction,” Library Journal, October 15, 2014

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013, 2015 (United States)


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