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Waiting (Vintage International) [Kindle Edition]

Ha Jin
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (358 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

"In Waiting, Ha Jin portrays the life of Lin Kong, a dedicated doctor torn by his love for two women: one who belongs to the New China of the Cultural Revolution, the other to the ancient traditions of his family's village. Ha Jin profoundly understands the conflict between the individual and society, between the timeless universality of the human heart and constantly shifting politics of the moment. With wisdom, restraint, and empathy for all his characters, he vividly reveals the complexities and subtleties of a world and a people we desperately need to know."--Judges' Citation, National Book Award

"Ha Jin's novel could hardly be less theatrical, yet we're immediately engaged by its narrative structure, by its wry humor and by the subtle, startling shifts it produces in our understanding of characters and their situation."--The New York Times Book Review

"Subtle and complex--his best work to date. A moving meditation on the effects of time upon love."--The Washington Post

"A high achievement indeed."--Ian Buruma, The New York Review of Books

"A portrait of Chinese provincial life that terrifies with its emptiness even more than with its all-pervasive vulgarity. The poet in [Jin] intersperses these human scenes with achingly beautiful vignettes of natural beauty."--Los Angeles Times

"A simple love story that transcends cultural barriers--. From the idyllic countryside to the small towns in northeast China, Jin's depictions are filled with an earthy poetic grace--. Jin's account of daily life in China is convincing and rich in detail."--The Chicago Tribune

"Compassionate, earthy, robust, and wise, Waiting blends provocative allegory with all-too-human comedy. The result touches and reveals, bringing to life a singular world in its spectacular intricacy."--Gish Jen, author of Who's Irish?

"A remarkable love story. Ha Jin's understanding of the human heart and the human condition transcends borders and time. Waiting is an outstanding literary achievement."--Lisa See, author of On Gold Mountain

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

"Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu." Like a fairy tale, Ha Jin's masterful novel of love and politics begins with a formula--and like a fairy tale, Waiting uses its slight, deceptively simple framework to encompass a wide range of truths about the human heart. Lin Kong is a Chinese army doctor trapped in an arranged marriage that embarrasses and repels him. (Shuyu has country ways, a withered face, and most humiliating of all, bound feet.) Nevertheless, he's content with his tidy military life, at least until he falls in love with Manna, a nurse at his hospital. Regulations forbid an army officer to divorce without his wife's consent--until 18 years have passed, that is, after which he is free to marry again. So, year after year Lin asks his wife for his freedom, and year after year he returns from the provincial courthouse: still married, still unable to consummate his relationship with Manna. Nothing feeds love like obstacles placed in its way--right? But Jin's novel answers the question of what might have happened to Romeo and Juliet had their romance been stretched out for several decades. In the initial confusion of his chaste love affair, Lin longs for the peace and quiet of his "old rut." Then killing time becomes its own kind of rut, and in the end, he is forced to conclude that he "waited eighteen years just for the sake of waiting."

There's a political allegory here, of course, but it grows naturally from these characters' hearts. Neither Lin nor Manna is especially ideological, and the tumultuous events occurring around them go mostly unnoticed. They meet during a forced military march, and have their first tender moment during an opera about a naval battle. (While the audience shouts, "Down with Japanese Imperialism!" the couple holds hands and gazes dreamily into each other's eyes.) When Lin is in Goose Village one summer, a mutual acquaintance rapes Manna; years later, the rapist appears on a TV report titled "To Get Rich Is Glorious," after having made thousands in construction. Jin resists hammering ideological ironies like these home, but totalitarianism's effects on Lin are clear:

Let me tell you what really happened, the voice said. All those years you waited torpidly, like a sleepwalker, pulled and pushed about by others' opinions, by external pressure, by your illusions, by the official rules you internalized. You were misled by your own frustration and passivity, believing that what you were not allowed to have was what your heart was destined to embrace.
Ha Jin himself served in the People's Liberation Army, and in fact left his native country for the U.S. only in 1985. That a non-native speaker can produce English of such translucence and power is truly remarkable--but really, his prose is the least of the miracles here. Improbably, Jin makes an unconsummated 18-year love affair loom as urgent as political terror or war, while history-changing events gain the immediacy of a domestic dilemma. Gracefully phrased, impeccably paced, Waiting is the kind of realist novel you thought was no longer being written. --Mary Park

From Publishers Weekly

Jin's quiet but absorbing second novel (after In the Pond) captures the poignant dilemma of an ordinary man who misses the best opportunities in his life simply by trying to do his duty—as defined first by his traditional Chinese parents and later by the Communist Party. Reflecting the changes in Chinese communism from the '60s to the '80s, the novel focuses on Lin Kong, a military doctor who agrees, as his mother is dying, to an arranged marriage. His bride, Shuyu, turns out to be a country woman who looks far older than her 26 years and who has, to Lin's great embarrassment, lotus (bound) feet. While Shuyu remains at Lin's family home in Goose Village, nursing first his mother and then his ailing father, and bearing Lin a daughter, Lin lives far away in an army hospital compound, visiting only once a year. Caught in a loveless marriage, Lin is attacted to a nurse, Manna Wu, an attachment forbidden by communist strictures. According to local Party rules, Lin cannot divorce his wife without her permission until they have been separated for 18 years. Although Jin infuses movement and some suspense into Lin's and Manna's sometimes resigned, sometimes impatient waiting—they will not consummate their relationship until Lin is free—it is only in the novel's third section, when Lin finally secures a divorce, that the story gathers real force. Though inaction is a risky subject and the thoughts of a cautious man make for a rather deliberate prose style (the first two sections describe the moments the characters choose not to act), the final chapters are moving and deeply ironic, proving again that this poet and award-winning short story writer can deliver powerful long fiction about a world alien to most Western readers. (Oct.) FYI: Jin served six years in the People's Liberation Army, and came to the U.S. in 1985.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 467 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 20, 2001)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000QCSAU4
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,553 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
104 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly elegant November 9, 1999
By A Customer
Reading this book one is reminded of the old Hemingway saw about how fiction should only give away the tip of the iceberg. The graceful, simple prose of this book reveals just the smallest portion of the complex emotional and politcal currents that run beneath this story. This is the kind of book that, once you have finished, you cannot get out of your head. The book jacket calls Ha Jin a "sturdy realist," but that's not really right; his prose has much more in common with a modernist minimalism. A must read for anyone who thinks that fiction writing in America is moribund.
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71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascintating October 31, 1999
By A Customer
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - as much for what it reveals of China as for the plot. The three people at the center of this novel --husband, wife and the 'girlfriend' (not mistress, that step is too dangerous for them to risk) who waits 18 years for him to get a divorce-- are in a state of limbo for much of their adult lives, constricted as they are by the laws of their society and by the limitations of their experience. This is a fast, easy book to read, but I don't mean this to sound negative, much is going on beneath the surface of an apparently straightforward story, and it left me contemplating how much we all take for granted about the laws of our society, how rarely we question the conventions we're brought up with. Well worth reading.
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89 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicate and fascinating June 14, 2000
By A Customer
I believe I can understand the negative comments this book has received, but I do not agree with them. Having several Asian friends, I was fascinated by the glimpse into Chinese culture--not only the political landscape, but family relations. I think people may be expecting something more grandiose from this book since it is an award winner. Rather, this book is like its main character, subtle. The narrative is straight forward, and the story is literally about "waiting," waiting for a period in your life to begin. I think what this book gives us, besides a wonderful peek into Chinese society, is a lesson to find what we love in life and revel in it. This is not a book to "polish off quickly." Rather it is one to read and think about each word, and the way those words are presented. I loved it. I finished the book several weeks ago, and I still think of Lin, and wonder if he will ever really know happiness.
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars insightful look at chinese culture September 5, 2000
i am a chinese woman myself & find this to be a beautifully written book with a real story to tell about love & life in modern china.
admittedly the novel does sound strangely "translated" from the chinese. u can actually pick out many literal chinese phrases like "stupid egg" that a western reader would perhaps find weird, disjointed & possibly unintelligible.
believe me when i say that this book describes very truly how chinese people love & why.
not only has "waiting" magically captured the universal truths of love (in all it's fragility & forms)amidst the pressures of society, culture & enforced political climate, which would explain why it won a well-deserved national book award, it also serves as a very accurate behind-the-scenes look at why the chinese act & behave the way they behave.
there are different little character rhythms from lin kong, manna, shuyu, hua & her uncle sprinkled all over the book that are only too familiar to any chinese who have been brought up in strict households from infants to be ruthlessly filial, obediant & good to the point of being uptight & submissive.
i am not saying that western people are not brought up with the same good qualities but the almost-oppressive way that these virtues are drummed in from young are a totally chinese thing.
read this book with an open mind & heart to learn more about the chinese people & i believe u will not be disppointed.
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars charming prose and texture outshine plot or character December 6, 1999
Ha Jin does some things splendidly: his prose style is supple and evocative for all of its simplicity , especially his descriptions of nature, and he conveys a wonderful sense of the living conditions under which his characters labor and love (or try to). For the first third of the book, I was remarkably engaged. But I don't think Jin has quite escaped the trap of how to wrtie about waiting without becoming a little dull--sort of like trying to write about boredom without becoming boring. These characters never quite came to life for me, and the author's own unkindly dissection of his protagonist's shortcomings near the end undermine the book's ongoing critique of Communist China--yes, Communism bad, especially in the quasi-rabid forms it has taken in China, controlling almost every aspect of these charaters' lives (good thing capitalism doesn't do that)--but could this character have been happy in any society? Another pitfall is that Jin seems to set us up for some sort of slam-bang ending after all the waiting--yet the final 50 pages or so are surprisingly muted. I may have unconsciously docked the book one star for what seems to me the beginning writer's ploy of having characters ask themselves questions in sets of threes--obvious questions at that, and a bit too frequently. After my initial engagement, I was frankly a little disapointed, especially after following up "Waiting" with J.M. Coetzee's "Disgrace" which covers some of the same themes in a starker yet richer tone.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely love this book
Absolutely love this book, and this is a fine copy. It was beautifully wrapped and arrived immediately. I'm very pleased
Published 21 days ago by Judith Garry
5.0 out of 5 stars Waiting, and waiting
Meticulously developed plot and setting. Explores the physical, social, cultural, and psychological atmosphere of China during the cultural revolution, from the point of view of a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by E L Andrews
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful
A beautifully written window into a China I knew nothing about
Published 2 months ago by Ray D. Krueger Koplin
4.0 out of 5 stars A simple love story between a married Chinese medical doctor
A simple love story between a married Chinese medical doctor, Lin Kong, and a nurse at his hospital, Manna, was skillfully woven into a study of conflicting choices between... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Hoang Nguyen
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading
Already have a copy, bought this for a friend as I think it is a book well worth reading. Got it at a good price. Delievered on time and in good condition.
Published 4 months ago by XML
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Waiting
An interesting book. About choice, commitment, accountability and obligation. Ambivalence versus firm commitment and choice within a relationship and it's consequences. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Marieke van Heerde
2.0 out of 5 stars I Finished the Book and am Still Waiting!
This book was chosen for our book club to read, and I was looking forward to reading it as I love to learn about other cultures. Sadly this book was a huge disappointment. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Always Reading!
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely book that requires patience= as the main character ...
A lovely book that requires patience= as the main character waits for life to happen.
He is not aware that life moves on in quiet movements, An interesting look at Chinese... Read more
Published 5 months ago by sal gal
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic, simple without being simplistic, fine and purposeful...
This was the first book of Ha Jin's that I have read and it won't be the last. One really feels transported to northeastern, "revolutionary" China - specifically to the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sanjay Mathur
5.0 out of 5 stars A Chinese army doctor waiting for 18 years for his love
Personal trial and tribulation in China after the red guards, life time of service in the army, breaking away from village life and the realization that everything is not what it... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
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