June 4, 1989 – Tiananmen Square Massacre, a defining date for modern Chinese history. On that day, in a hospital in Beijing, Su Lan gives birth to a girl – Liya. Liya returns to the country many years later, after growing up in exile, to discover the truth about her deceased mother.
Su Lan is undoubtedly the main character of Little Gods. However, you learn her story indirectly, through accounts of people with whom she was bound by fate. You first meet her through the eyes of a midwife in a hospital engulfed in chaos. Later, several other accounts: Zhu Wen – Su Lan’s neighbor before leaving China, her husband Yongzong and most importantly – Liya, who, trying to find out what kind of person her mother was and who her father was, plunges deeper and deeper into the history of her family and country. She discovers that events from the past still shape relationships in the modern world.
This way of talking about the chatacter is perfect to show the complexity and ambiguity of Su Lan. Small fragments reveal the story of an ambitious girl from a poor village, who makes her way to the most prestigious universities and, as a scientist, fights for her ideas in the masculine environment. Her bold concepts of time go beyond the known laws of physics. It is also a story about migration, mother-daughter relationship, Su Lan’s constant escape from the past and memories. By getting familiar with several perspectives, readers can put together an interesting image of China in the 1980s and emigrant lives.
Little Gods is Meng Jin’s literary debut, a great psychological study, skillfully conducted narrative, and above all, a story that probes the subject of belonging in the world and the impact of our choices on others.