Praise for


“Haunting….The foundling may be a familiar figure in the history of the novel, most prominently in Dickens and the Brontës, but Ma gives us a striking 21st-century iteration….[T]he most vivid characters in the book are Gran and the troubled Ari. They're shimmering and unforgettable....One of the stunning accomplishments of this book is Ma’s tonal range.”


"Ma's first novel is a sweeping success--a standout from the many novels about Chinese assimilation and the families of Chinese immigrants--with a fascinating protagonist….Ma implies that not all losses can be recovered….This is a family saga of insight, regret, and pathos, and it is not to be missed.


"Ma brings all sorts of relationships – mother-daughter, sister-sister, friend-friend –  to vivid life. And she painstakingly conveys that we are never just one thing, and can never be fixed by just one formula."
Booklist (American Library Association)


"An impassioned, unapologetic look at tough, interesting subjects."

Kirkus Reviews


"Ari's voice...sets this novel on fire. She seethes and broods with a furious wit....[A picture] as full and vexing and self-contradictory and transcendent as any human life."


A "sparklingly original fiction debut."

O Magazine


"Incandescent...a stirring excavation of adolescent, familial and racial identity....The Year She Left Us is difficult and lovely, wild and endearing."


"A deft, raw dissection of an American family."

San Francisco Chronicle, featured front page review


"[A] rich panoply that...deserves to be talked about...."


"Ma skillfully links the family's personal troubles to wider social and historical forces....a complex, human story."


“Kathryn Ma's first novel is electrified by the enraged tenderness of its alienated young protagonist.  Part mystery, part odyssey, The Year She Left Us heralds the arrival of a fierce, subtle new American voice.”

– Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad


“The characters of Kathryn Ma's glittering debut novel are complicated, infuriating and hugely sympathetic. I couldn't wait to find out what they'd do next; I envy readers coming to these pages for the first time."

– Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy


“As tough and tender a book as I can remember reading. I'll never forget 18-year-old Ariadne Bettina Yun-Li Rose Kong, raised in San Francisco but born (and abandoned) in Kunming, China. Add to the world's great literature of orphans and adoptees this stunning new novel by Kathryn Ma.”

– Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier


“In this provocative tale of a family pulled apart, Kathryn Ma proves herself a powerful storyteller and an astute observer of the complexities of human experience and the perils and possibilities of love.”

– Karin Evans, author of The Lost Daughters of China


“This story of strong women and their attachments is beautifully told, and is remarkably shrewd about familial love, cultural norms, and estrangement. A wonderfully rich first novel.”

– Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love


 “Full of secrets and obsessed with identity, this story of an adopted Chinese girl comes closer to the complexity of things than any other account I have read. It is moving and well told, and rings perfectly true.”

– Gish Jen, author of World and Town


The Year She Left Us is unlike any novel I have ever read. With remarkable clarity, Kathryn Ma understands the weight of the unspoken—how it can tear away the tenuous tissue that holds together a family—and the tender mercies required to heal. I savored every rich, masterful line."

– Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of Wench




Praise for


"Kathryn Ma's emotional precision sheds new light on the interworkings of families... and her powers are on marvelous display in this fine debut collection of stories....All That Work and Still No Boys marks the arrival of a deeply compassionate and subtle writer in possession of a keen sense of character and an impressive dexterity

 of language."

– Laura van den Berg, Ploughshares


 "Ma collects 10 stories full of quiet astonishments....stunning...."

– Stanford Magazine"


 These 10 stories offer an intimate look at Chinese-American life; the careful distances, the family obligations, the wounded pride and myriad slights that fester over generations. Ma's stories are layered....there are no good guys, no bad guys, just the deep suffering that ripples through families – the things that everyone knows and no one talks about."

– Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times


"Throughout the book – the winner of the illustrious 2009 Iowa Short Fiction Prize – Ma's mostly Chinese American characters confront the long arm of cultural traditions and the pain of immigration and assimilation with a pitch-perfect subtlety that many Asian American writers miss.  Her detailed and intimate understandings of relationships remind me of Jhumpa Lahiri's work, but Ma brings a humor and messiness....Ma's extremely readable prose carried me through this slim collection almost too fast, leaving me wanting more.  This book is one of the most promising fiction debuts I've read in a long time."

– Neelanjana Banerjee, Hyphen Magazine


“With subtle intelligence and wry humor, Kathryn Ma brings us characters whose

 lives are complicated—in all the best ways—by family, race, immigration, and quirks

 of personality. These wonderful stories have the resonance of truth even as they

 make you see the world in new ways.”

– Curtis Sittenfeld, author of American Wife


“Kathryn Ma's All That Work and Still No Boys negotiates with a brisk and wry

 dispatch the minor and major agonies of family crises, and renders with admirable

 efficiency and power the subterranean stresses in any intimate history. Her

 characters and relationships are rendered with an enviable grace and a clarity and

 a compassionate insight that honors both their pain and their ongoing attempts, however imperfect, to pitch in on one another's behalf.”

– Jim Shepard, author of Like You’d Understand, Anyway


"Kathryn Ma is a wonderful writer. Subtle, complex, funny, touching, these stories

 deliver a world of characters I shall not forget.”

– Lynn Freed, author of The Servants' Quarters


“Kathryn Ma writes with wit and an incisive light touch about a range of characters,

 nationalities, ages, and temperaments. Particularly skillful at revealing the nuances,

 contradictions, and stresses inner and outer that make us alike in need, she had me

 leaning into these stories page after page. A wonderful debut from a talented


– Ehud Havazelet, author of Bearing the Body




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