Review of Dear Friend: From My Life I Write to You in Your Life, by Yiyun Li

In Dear Friend: From My Life I Write to You in Your Life, Yiyun Li offers a raw, heartbreaking exploration of the author’s ongoing struggle with suicide, the necessity of solitude, and a friendship that transcends age and nationality. What lingers after the last page is the intensity of the author’s relationship with William Trevor, a friendship that seeps into every page of the book. Li also provides glimpses of her mother, whose rages and narcissism damaged Li, her sister, and their father in ways that are only hinted at.

Li refers repeatedly to two suicide attempts that led to hospital stays. Throughout, she keeps readers in the dark about the specific events that preceded the suicide attempts. But the events seem less important in the context of this memoir than the author’s attempts to navigate depression while living in a world that wants to know more. Many readers may feel for the author’s children, who, as they grown older, will have both the gift and the burden of an intimate glimpse of their mother’s pain and the difficulty she finds in attempting to be close to others.

In prose that is both concise and elliptical, filled with blank spaces and unanswered questions, Yiyun Li speaks movingly of the need for privacy and the absence of a sense of self, while baring intimate details of her life and psyche. This book will be likely remembered alongside William Styron’s classic Darkness Visible.

Visit Yiyun Li’s website.

Also published on Medium.