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A Good Fall: Stories Hardcover – November 24, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From National Book Award–winner Jin (Waiting) comes a new collection that focuses on Flushing, one of New York City's largest Chinese immigrant communities. With startling clarity, Jin explores the challenges, loneliness and uplift associated with discovering one's place in America. Many different generational perspectives are laid out, from the young male sweatshop-worker narrator of The House Behind a Weeping Cherry, who lives in the same rooming-house as three prostitutes, to the grandfather of Children as Enemies, who disapproves of his grandchildren's desires to Americanize their names. Anxiety and distrust plague many of Jin's characters, and while the desire for love and companionship is strong, economic concerns tend to outweigh all others. In Temporary Love, Jin explores the inevitable complications of becoming a wartime couple or men and women who, unable to bring their spouses to America, cohabit... to comfort each other and also to reduce living expenses. With piercing insight, Jin paints a vast, fascinating portrait of a neighborhood and a people in flux. (Dec.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* In The Bridegroom (2000), his last collection of short stories, Ha Jin, a National Book Award winner, captures the paradoxes of life under China’s Communist regime. In his new stories, sharply etched works remarkable for the contrast between their directness of expression and complexity of feelings, he creates a mirror-image set of tales about a Chinese immigrant community in Flushing, New York. Ha Jin’s ear and eye for Chinese American life are acute, as is his sense of how one life can encompass a full spectrum of irony, desperation, and magic. The advent of e-mail enables a sister in China to blackmail her sister in America. A struggling composer develops a remarkable rapport with his absent lover’s parakeet. Marriages come under duress, one due to the almost surreal insensitivity of a visiting mother, the other to the husband’s suspicions about his wife and the strange truth they reveal. A classic story about grandparents from the old country appalled by their Americanized grandchildren is balanced by the startling title story, in which a young kung fu master and monk achieves an unforeseen form of enlightenment. The quest for freedom yields surprising and resonant complications in Ha Jin’s sorrowful, funny, and bittersweet stories. --Donna Seaman

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (November 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307378683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307378682
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,343,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Kanigan VINE VOICE on December 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has twelve short stories set in Flushing, one of New York's largest Chinese immigrant communities. Author traverses the anxieties and struggles of the immigrants - some young (Monk down on his luck), some old (grandparents despised by Americanized grandchildren), some rich (professionals) and some dirt poor working in sweatshops and as prostitutes. This is not a soothing or uplifting book - but a real gritty portrait of the day-to-day Asian immigrant struggles with assimilation into American life - the loneliness of being without family back home - the hardship of making a living and learning the language - the yearning of finding someone to love.

Unlike other immigrant readings - you won't find them trashing America or wishing to go back home due to the hardship. These immigrants knuckle down and survive - they grind it out in the chase of the American dream - yet can't quite let go of their life back home.

Author has a smooth writing style. I found myself remarkably engaged in the conversational style prose and its captivating simplicity. Jin has an innate ability to capture the details of the living conditions of the characters in each of the stories along with a rich imagery of the neighborhoods. If I had any criticism of the collection of stories, is that their conclusions are often too abrupt and fall off a cliff while others are too contrived - in both cases I was left wanting for a more finessed, nuanced or insightful ending.

I particularly enjoyed the following passages:

"Certainly I wouldn't lend her the money, because that might amount to hitting a dog with a meatball--nothing would come back."

"At our ages--my wife is sixty-three and I'm sixty-seven--and at this time it's hard to adjust to life here.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was given to me as a gift from a friend who I had shared my love of Ha Jin's great novel `Waiting' with. Interestingly, as much as I loved `Waiting', I had never picked up anything else by him! So I was excited to start in on this new collection of short stories.

There are two things that stand out in this work. First is just the pure craft of it. These are exquisitely crafted stories. Jin is an English professor, after all, but the quality of this writing transcends that of the quality to be expected of any old English professor. It is that of a craftsman who has harnessed a great talent to the extent that the work seems effortless. (I'm sure it's not, but that just confirms my point.) His sentences are crisp and business-like, but not at all dull. In fact they almost crackle off the page. It's this blend of traits that makes this, or any other writing, so good.

Second, Jin writes movingly of the experience of the Chinese immigrant in America. The difficulties and hardships these people endure throughout the collection give us an almost instantaneous sympathy for the characters, even ones who aren't all that nice. `Children as Enemies' is about an old couple who are terrorized by their Americanized grandchildren. In `Temporary Love' we see the fall-out of being a `war-time' couple', or men and women who cohabitate in the States pretending to be married while waiting for their real spouses to come from China. In `A Good Fall', a monk is pushed to extreme measures when his `master' kicks him out of his temple, penniless, and without having paid him a penny for his work. Each story, whether they center on this theme or not, uses a different component of it in some way.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best short story collections to be published recently. It is comprised of highly literate, yet down-to-earth tales of enchanting, humorous, thoughtful and infuriating characters who will undoubtedly provide readers with much enjoyment and many insights into human nature. The "exotic" quality of a large but little known ethnic group (Chinese-Americans and immigrants) adds to the learning experience. Very well done and highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For the most part, recent Chinese immigrants are in the middle of a huge culture clash: Chinese tradition meets American consumer culture. Here is my overview with a star ranking for each story:

One. "The Bane of the Internet," a slight story about a woman's sister caught up in consumerism and enslaving herself to debt. Two stars.

Two. "A Composer and His Parakeets," a strong story about a man, a composer, hopelessly in love with an aspiring actress who is consumed by her career. He bonds more closely with his girlfriend's parakeet than he does with the woman of his dreams after his girlfriend charges him with baby-sitting the bird while she advances her acting profile, taking an overseas acting job. Five stars.

Three. "The Beauty," a strong, often funny and sad story about the self-destructiveness of jealousy and the trickery of images. Five stars.

Four. "Choice," a tormented love story about a tutor who falls in love with his student's mother. 5 stars.

Five. "Children as Enemies." A slight story, more of an exposition and monologue from a grandfather's point of view as he expresses his bitterness over the Americanization of his grandchildren. 3 stars.

Six. "In the Crossfire." A tormented marriage resulting from an imperious mother-in-law who imposes her Chinese traditions on her Americanized children. 5 stars.

Seven. "Shame." A young man befriends his former college professor who defects from China only to find that the professor is not as grand as the student once thought. Like "The Beauty," this story focuses on illusions and chimeras. Four stars.

Eight. "An English Professor." A slight, disappointing tale about the anxieties of getting tenure. Two stars.

Nine. "A Pension Plan.
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