This debut novel by E. Lily Yu is an immigration story. The Daizangi family are traveling from Pakistan for Australia. The story, for the most part, is told through the eyes of young Firuzeh, who is traveling with her younger brother Nour, and her parents. Firuzeh briefly befriends a young girl on the boat that eventually lands them on the island of Nauru, but her friend Nasima falls overboard during a rainstorm, and drowns at sea. Nasima reappears as a ghost, who keeps Firuzeh company as she makes her way in a new land. Even though there are supernatural elements (or maybe just Firuzah's vivid imagination, helping her to survive) this story of a family's struggle to survive, and fit in somewhere in the world is grounded in reality. A heartbreaking story that gives those of us living in relative comfort a peek into the struggles that are faced by so many in this world.
NPR Books We Love 2021, Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2021, Booklist Best of 2021 Booklist Editors' Choice: Adult Titles, NYT Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2021, Washington Independent Review of Books 51 Favorite Books of 2021.
A haunting story of a family of dreamers and tale-tellers looking for home in an unwelcoming world. This exquisite and unusual magic realist debut, told in intensely lyrical prose by an award winning author, traces one girl’s migration from war to peace, loss to loss, home to home.
Firuzeh and her brother Nour are children of fire, born in an Afghanistan fractured by war. When their parents, their Atay and Abay, decide to leave, they spin fairy tales of their destination, the mythical land and opportunities of Australia.
As the family journeys from Pakistan to Indonesia to Nauru, heading toward a hope of home, they must rely on fragile and temporary shelters, strangers both mercenary and kind, and friends who vanish as quickly as they’re found.
When they arrive in Australia, what seemed like a stable shore gives way to treacherous currents. Neighbors, classmates, and the government seek their own ends, indifferent to the family’s fate. For Firuzeh, her fantasy worlds provide some relief, but as her family and home splinter, she must surface from these imaginings and find a new way.
Content notice: On Fragile Waves contains references to violence, abuse, and racism.
About the Author
E. Lily Yu received the Artist Trust / LaSalle Storyteller Award in 2017 and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 2012. Her stories appear in venues from McSweeney's to Tor.com and in eleven best-of-the-year anthologies, and have been finalists for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards. She has lived on both coasts and holds degrees from Princeton and Cornell. This is her first novel.
★ “In flowing, lyrical prose, Yu showcases the power of folklore and the pain of displacement. This is a knockout." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
★ “On Fragile Waves is a lyrical fabulist novel that will enchant readers of both literary fiction and fantasy.” —Booklist, starred review
★ “An evocative and heart-lacerating debut novel…. Essential fiction to understand our world.” —Library Journal, starred review
★ “On Fragile Waves is a masterful and poetic novel about finding hope and joy in the most dire circumstances.” —Foreword Reviews, starred review
“[A] tremendous and almost unbearable work of witness. It is devastating and perfect." —New York Times Book Review
“Beautifully written, absorbing, powerful.... This should win awards when it comes out next year. I think Yu is doing some of the most exciting things in genre.” —Jo Walton, Tor.com
“An extraordinary achievement—original in voice, powerful in material, a book of brutal beauty and unflinching compassion. May it be noticed and read and praised and believed.” —Karen Joy Fowler, bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
“A heartbreaking celebration of the necessity of joy. A soul-searing tale of homecoming, home-becoming, home-conjuring. By holding up the jagged beauty of faith against despair, E. Lily Yu is the brilliant voice of conscience our age needs.” —Ken Liu, author of The Paper Menagerie and The Grace of Kings
"An incredibly accomplished debut novel, a necessary and important tale of empathy and imagination and hope." —Matt Bell, author of Appleseed
“E. Lily Yu's finely honed prose and her child narrator allow for flashes of warmth and beauty between the shocks and sorrows, the terrors and humiliations.” —Margo Lanagan, author of Tender Morsels
“Vivid, intense and heart-wrenching. On Fragile Waves is both a coming-of-age tale and an unflinching meditation on exile, belonging, fragility and hope.” —Victoria Law, co-author of Prison By Any Other Name
“On Fragile Waves confirms that E. Lily Yu is a prodigy. Every line a gemstone, every page a calligram.” — Usman T. Malik, author of Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan
“A stunning heartbreaker. The prose is as sharp and beautiful as the story it tells . . . bringing into painful beautiful focus all the ways the world is horrible, and all the ways the world is magic.” —Sam J. Miller, Nebula-Award-winning author of Blackfish City and The Art of Starving