Book Review: On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu

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Title: On Fragile Waves
Author: E. Lily Yu
Publisher: Erewhon
Publication date: February 2, 2021
Genre: Literary fiction

An important literary fiction with stunning lyrical prose

At a glance: Firuzeh and her brother were born in Afghanistan, and their whole life changes when their parents decide to leave Afghanistan in hopes of a better life in Australia. Their only source of comfort in the journey is clinging onto the stories they make up of where they are going.

  • 🌳 Family Focused
  • 😭 Emotional
  • 🤔 Thought Provoking
  • 🧭 Immigrant Experience

Read this if… you love lyrical prose, or if you love stories of immigrant experience. If you want a story that needs to be told way more in literature.

Book Review

Stunning, lyrical, heart aching, beautiful, literary, important

On Fragile Waves was stunning, heart breaking, and difficult. It is an important experience to immortalize on paper, and I loved that I was able to read it. As a story of a family who of dreamers and story tellers, the lyrical prose really fit the bill for this. It gave off a light magic touch, on brand with the magical realism in the story. It was really cool to see the prose match that story telling so well!

Toward the beginning the prose is incredibly lyrical and almost abstract. The writing itself is picturesque. As the story went on, the prose started to feel little more grounded when everything was resolving. It’s as if the writing itself was moving like the flow of a narrative, and once they grew and realized that they didn’t need to rely on stories to survive anymore, the writing became more grounded. It was really beautiful!

That being said, I think because of the way the prose is written, this story lost my interest somewhere in between 50-65%, but luckily won back my attention the next time there was a time jump. Even though the middle got a little slow there, the ending completely broke my heart. The solution that Atay sees in the end is just… so hard. So devastating. Way too real of a solution. My heart ached the entire time reading this book, but the end was causing me real pain. Amazing work, E. Lily Yu!

“Anyone can suffer. But joy — that’s hard. Ask about joy.”

Summing it all up

On Fragile Waves has stunning prose that matches the dreamers and storytellers of this incredibly undertold experience of a family. Though it dragged a bit in the middle, it ties off with a beautiful solution filled with tragic love that broke my heart. 💔

**I received an ARC of this title for free and am leaving this review voluntarily**

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 twelve best-of-the-year anthologies, and have been finalists for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards. [This is] her first novel, On Fragile Waves.


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If you liked this review or thought you might like this book, check out some of my other reviews for books with beautiful, lyrical writing:


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Added to my TBR: On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu!

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