Lilia Liska is 81. She has shrewdly outlived three husbands, raised five children and seen the arrival of seventeen grandchildren. Now she has turned her keen attention to a strange little book published by a vanity press: the diary of a long-forgotten man named Roland Bouley, with whom she once had a fleeting affair. Increasingly obsessed by this fragment of intimate history, Lilia begins to annotate the diary with her own rather different version of events.
Gradually she undercuts Roland’s charming but arrogant voice with an incisive and deeply moving commentary. She reveals to us the surprising, long-held secrets of her past. And she returns inexorably to her daughter, Lucy, who took her own life at the age of 27.
Must I Go is an unconventional epistolary novel, a gleefully one-way correspondence between the very-much-alive Lilia and the long-departed Roland. Though mortality is ever-present, this is ultimately a novel about life, in all its messy glory. Life lived, for the extraordinary Lilia, absolutely on its own terms. With exquisite subtlety and insight, Yiyun Li navigates the twin poles of grief and resilience, loss and rebirth, that compass a human heart.