One autumn morning, Jia Jia walks into the bathroom of her lavish Beijing apartment to find her husband dead. One minute she was breakfasting with him and packing for an upcoming trip, the next, she finds him motionless in their half-full bathtub. Like something out of a dream, next to the tub Jia Jia discovers a pencil sketch of a strange watery figure, an image that swims into Jia Jia's mind and won't leave.
The mysterious drawing launches Jia Jia on an odyssey across contemporary Beijing, from its high-rise apartments to its hidden bars, as her path crosses some of the people who call the city home, including a jaded bartender who may be able to offer her the kind of love she had long thought impossible. Unencumbered by a marriage that had constrained her, Jia Jia travels into her past to try to discover things that were left unsaid by the people closest to her. Her journey takes her to the high plains of Tibet, and even to a shadowy, watery otherworld, a place she both yearns and fears to go.
Exquisitely attuned to the complexities of human connection, and an atmospheric and cinematic evocation of middle-class urban China, An Yu's Braised Pork explores the intimate strangeness of grief, the indelible mysteries of unseen worlds, and the energizing self-discovery of a newly empowered young woman.
"Produces its own kind of mind trip . . . Written with a shimmering lightness that maintains, as Jia Jia thinks of her watery visions, 'some balance between mystery and simplicity' . . . An also tucks a touching love story into the strange proceedings, which supplies enough incentive to keep Jia Jia--and the reader--equally invested in boring old reality."--Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
"An original and electric narrative . . . Yu's language is sparse yet surreal . . . In Braised Pork, Yu raises provocative questions about why we get fixated on those moments--and how they might relate to the company we crave."--Annabel Gutterman, TIME, "One of the Best Books of the Month"
"Braised Pork's central journey is interior: the incremental and circuitous process of a human mind trying to come to terms with itself . . . A haunting, coolly written novel . . . Intensely atmospheric."--Los Angeles Review of Books
"Yu's prose is crisp and never tedious, with bursts of startling imagery amid the otherwise restrained style."--Karen Cheung, New York Times Book Review
"Dreamy and surreal . . . What follows is her journey of rediscovery--of her passion, of her spirituality, of her artistic abilities, and of herself--that evolves in her real life and in dreams. It's otherworldly and deeply moving."--BuzzFeed
"Outstanding . . . Unforgettable . . . There is a kind of magic in the way the reader is also constantly submerged with Jia Jia for just long enough, before catching breath on the surface . . . Utterly original . . . A unique, metaphysical, and surreal tale of a woman that seeks answers in a world that has so often betrayed her with silence."--Asian Review of Books
"In searching for answers to her husband's untimely death, a young widow in Beijing finds room to explore her own existential angst . . . Yu's original debut spins an increasingly surreal tale which brilliantly mirrors Jia Jia's own discombobulation . . . Proof positive that rebirths are entirely possible--even in one lifetime."--Kirkus Reviews
"An's poignant debut tells the story of a young woman trying to find purpose in her life in the wake of disorienting personal tragedy . . . An draws Jia Jia with great affection and sympathy as the character grapples with the elusive meaning of her dreams and powerful emotional experiences. Readers will be moved by An's mature meditation on the often inexplicable forces that shape the trajectory of fan individual life."--Publishers Weekly
"Poignant . . . A moving, magical parable about a young woman's journey of self-discovery and empowerment . . . Enchanting."--Shelf Awareness
"The premise itself is intriguing enough, but the real magic is in watching Jia Jia stretch her limbs as she leaves behind a rather restrictive marriage and encounters places and people she never imagined. Come for the mystery, stay for self-discovery of a liberated woman."--Literary Hub
"A startlingly original debut . . . While it's easy to see that Braised Pork borrows something of Haruki Murakami's brand of strange melancholia, there's a startlingly original imagination of its own at work here . . . A sensitive portrait of alienated young womanhood."--Guardian
"A seductive, sharply observed tale of love, loss and hope."--Daily Mail
"An elegant, dreamlike tale of a woman's self-realization, set in contemporary Beijing."--Daily Telegraph
"Rich and strange . . . Wild and distinctive."--Observer
"Strange and cinematic, this is an author to keep an eye on."--Stylist
"Bold yet understated, Braised Pork is the debut of a supremely confident and gifted writer."--Katie Kitamura, author of A Separation
"This exquisite novel is many things: a detective story in which the real object of pursuit is how one makes meaning of a sometimes ineffable existence; a meditation on the talismanic power of art and the indefatigability of the human spirit; and a many-faceted, perfectly cut gem of psychological portraiture set in well-wrought sentences burnished to a gorgeous luster. The emotions in this book keep pace with you, shadowing you with a quiet intensity, until in the last stretch they overtake you completely."--Matthew Thomas, New York Times-bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves
"Yu is a fantastic storyteller. The prose is sly and controlled, yet page after page, I found myself spellbound by a story that does what all writers hope to do, which is to make the familiar unfamiliar."--Weike Wang, author of Chemistry
"What a singular, slippery, transfixing novel this is. An Yu achieves a hypnotizing emotional clarity as she takes her narrator ever further from a stifling life in Beijing into a watery realm unlike any I've read before."--Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew
"Braised Pork is mesmerizing, incisive, and utterly disarming. An Yu writes beautifully about loneliness, the experience of isolation--from others, from one's own past--and the possibility of human connection, however fragile."--Rosie Price, author of What Red Was
"What a voice An Yu unfurls in Braised Pork. So elegant and poised, so tuned to the great mysteries of love and loss. Like a breeze on a still day, hers is a sound I didn't know I needed until I felt it. Braised Pork is a major debut."--John Freeman, author of Dictionary of the Undoing