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"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.

"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

Customer Reviews:

  • Mao Dun
    Ha Jin does a great job of showing the duality of human nature. The two characters are forever caught between two equally valid interpretations of reality.

    Is Lin Kong's love for Manna true love, or simply a symptom of his own stunted emotional growth? Is Lin Kong truly a caring and sophisticated man, or is he just too timid to express his true passions?

    Maoist China serves as the force which divides reality into these two spheres of interpretation. The traditional Chinese ideal is constantly being overturned by Mao's suppression of the old ways -- an embrace of the new which forces Lin Kong to sometimes despise the village life. Yet he can never completely suppress his love for the idyllic rural family life.

    As the novel moves to the post-Mao Deng's "to get rich is glorious" era, the carpet is swept from under the characters' feets and they are forced to consider the possibility that they are pathetic victims who never actually made a real choice in their entire lives. Ha Jin portrays this internal conflict by having the characters actually holding conversations with voices inside their head.

    If you can identify with these characters -- and I think anybody who has ever looked back on their lives with some hint of regret will be able to -- you will find that Ha Jin successfully tries to assuage those regrets by universalizing our suffering. There is a universal element to Ha Jin's prose because it speaks of emotions so literally. His use of analogies are used to explain specific emotional events, rather than to offer over-arching interpretations.

    Unlike a plot-driven novel where the author intentionally deceives the reader (to the reader's great joy), Ha Jin leaves these characters completely exposed to us. And unlike characters in a plot-driven novel, Ha Jin's characters are without clear intentions, without unambiguous motivations, but constantly flooded by internal conflict.

    What the Chinese call "mao dun."...more info
  • Not for me
    I tried but there was not enought plot for me. The author drew the characters very well. I also liked the atmosphere of the story but in the end I was bored....more info
  • A Simply Stunning Novel
    Ha Jin has proven time and time again to be a master story-teller. Waiting may be his masterpiece. In elegant prose he tells a "grass is greener" tale of a married man who loves another woman. Every moment of the novel is a heart-wrenching joy to read as Lin Kong weighs the balance of what is right and what he wants. Soon the reader is waiting along with Lin Kong to see what the end result will be. This is an absolutely amazing novel that draws the reader in and should be on every reading list....more info
  • Is patience a virtue?
    What makes this 20th century Chinese fable so memorable is its subtle portrayal of time. The portrayal of time's passage in a life we see as "not fully-lived" and marked by restraint, is told so elegantly and richly that moments lost to the characters are transformed into those which are the best lived, and truest (certainly the most innocent) of their lives.

    It may strike readers as a fairy tale or fable for the ending, when the illusions that were bound up in the doctor's years of waiting for his sweetheart are unleashed. Then the reader must question the years he waited, following the law. What were they for? Was his commitment to a woman in the world or to waiting itself? The allure of the unattainable is perhaps a universal human weakness, but you cannot ask for a more beautiful portrayal of it than in this fine book. His epiphany on love at the end of the novel still does not ultimately change his character, one in which the act of waiting for something is almost his very own reflection.

    Historically, this is an excellent portrayal of both interior life as it existed under Chinese communism, and the interference of public onto private life found in any society. ...more info
  • Not so much...
    I purchased this book to read for a book club I have recently joined. In the beginning, I wondered about the characters, but soon grew bored of the relationships. The "waiting" that Lin experienced was cowardly and did not gather any sympathy from this reader. Manna's love and willingness to "wait" grew to be a pathetic desire for a union that was not based on real feelings. I thought the rape scene was extremely graphic and unnecessary use of language...to the point of almost not finishing the novel. I did finish it, against my better judgement, only to be continually disappointed. I am looking forward to hearing from the other members of the book club......more info
  • An Chinese immigrant man who knows how to write stories in E
    The author writes a good story building on a innate trait that the Chinese people seem to have, patience. He does well to set the story with this foreboding, eventually to the breaking point in the last fifth of the book. This author uses the patience ideal, building up scenerio after scenerio. As the reader you know that the protagonists are being frustrated by the waiting but don't show it. You know something is going to happen, you just don't know what. It is the last dozen pages that give away life's issues.

    Don't read unless you have patience. The author emigrated from his native China to study at Brandeis U, teaches English at Emory U. One of the few Chinese American men who write good fiction based on life in the new China....more info
  • waiting
    I havn`t finished reading the book yet (290pages through) I am savouring the last few pages....more info
  • 308 pages of waiting
    I had had this book on my shelf for a while and because of all the awards it had won, I had high expectations. They were not met.

    The story is set in 1960s-1980s China which is post-revolutionary Red China. Lin Kong is a doctor in an army hospital, with a wife from an arranged marriage and a daughter. The hospital is in a city near Lin Kong's village. He leaves his wife and daughter in the village and only goes home once a year on leave. He does not love his wife and every summer when he comes home, he tries to get a divorce. Every summer for 20 years, his wife agrees to the divorce, but once they get to court she changes her mind.

    There is another woman, a nurse at the hospital, whom Lin Kong wishes to marry. She waits for him throughout the 20 years. Since morality is very strict under the communist regime, they have no physical relationship. This goes on for a good third of the book, so the reader is waiting as well and yes, that is as uneventful as it sounds.

    Finally the divorce is granted, the frustrated lovers marry and then their troubles really begin. They have a child, the wife becomes clingy and neurotic and Lin Kong does not really have the knack of being a husband. He had moved the ex-wife to the city after the divorce, which leads to an ironic ending that is actually good, but geez, I waited 300 pages for this?...more info
  • Great!
    There is no need for me to go into detail what this book is about. I just have to say that this is one of the best books I have read in a while. I love reading books that teach me about different cultures and what goes on in other parts of the world. I am not saying that agree with what went on- with Lin being in love with another womam while being married, but I understand that other cultures look at marriage different than I am use too, I thought what happen to Manna, with the attack was terrible and wish it would have been left out of the storyline. I must say that I loved Lin's brother in law's role in the book-looking out for his sister and all. This is one of the better books out there, I have already ordered more books from this author. GREAT! ...more info
  • That's the Point!
    I once saw a movie titled "Momento". The scenes were shown backwards, confusing the heck out of me, giving me a headache like you wouldn't believe. It was as if I had amnesia!

    I'm not as advanced a novel reader as most of the reviewers here appear to be.

    I can't remember why I decided to buy this book. The only fiction I enjoy is short stories. I don't have the patience to read any story longer than 50 pages. Maybe I wanted to try something different.

    I absolutely hated the pace of the book. I hated the characters. I hated their inaction. I hated how they allowed their lives to be taken over by fate and chance, and did nothing significant to change them! What I hate most was how it affected my commute over a three-week period. (It's when I read the book, about 45 minutes each direction, making the agony seemed prolonged...) It made me antsy, more impatient, and angry. I found myself anticipating for something exciting to happen, anything!

    The WAITING made me feel miserable......

    What a ride!...more info
  • One of the best novels I read this year
    This novel draws you in from the first page and doesn't let go. It is an intimate look at the struggle of a nurse and doctor to legitimaze their love in a society that places endless constraints on their behavior. As the characters "wait", you wait right along with them. But the book's real reward is its ending, which takes the story into a much more complicated emotional terrain than expected.
    ...more info
  • Waiting for Godot
    This simple story of Lin Kong, a doctor in China who is married to a woman he doesn't love and waits for a woman whom he does love, is written in Ha Jin's spare, simple prose. The irony of the story is that when he is finally able to divorce his wife, his mistress is very sick and she has changed, so that he no longer loves her, and after having divorced his wife, he finds himself seeking her love and forgiveness. At the end of the novel, Lin Kong's relationship with both women is intentionally ambiguous and at best doubtful. Lin Kong is therefore waiting for something that will never occur, and in that sense, he is the existential protagonist with no exit. While Ha Jin succeeds in portraying the agony of waiting, he fails to make Lin Kong a sympathetic character. Lin Kong seems more like a selfish, immature child, rather than a compassionate character who is immobilizied by forces beyond his control. Stylistically, Ha Jin seems more proficient in writing short fiction. While "In the Pond" is satisfying and complete, "Waiting" is dreary and monotonous. Look for "In the Pond" and Ha Jin's short stories. ...more info
  • A long-simmering love triangle
    This is a well-written story that describes an unconventional love triangle stretched out over two decades.

    The protagonists are Lin Kong, a Chinese physician serving his Communist masters faithfully; Shuyu, his peasant wife from an arranged marriage; and Manna Wu, a nurse at Mr. Kong's hospital.

    The central drama of the book revolves around Mr. Kong's repeated attempts to divorce his childhood bride so that he can marry Manna Wu. Lin Kong himself is conflicted. On the one hand, he feels shame and guilt over even trying to divorce his wife, as she has done nothing worthy of divorce, faithfully serving both him and his entire family without a single complaint over the years. On the other hand, he longs to be with Manna, a much better match for him by intellect and by temperament -- so his repeated failures at finalizing the divorce fill him with a mild case of self-loathing.

    One of the beauties of this book is that it stretches the narrative over nearly 20 years. You live with these characters for twenty years, seeing them change, age, and grow. This kind of story-telling is the antithesis of the whirlwind courtship followed by "and they lived happily ever after" (a la Bridget Jones' Diary).

    The backdrop to this story is China, which itself changes dramatically from the 1960s to the 1980s. For a very different sense of China during the same period, I recommend reading the non-fiction "Gang of One" by Fan Shen.

    The writing is astounding for someone who didn't learn to write in English until so late in life. I found the external events more dramatic and compelling than Lin's internal conversations with himself, which sometimes felt a little stilted. Still, overall, this is a compelling read and a remarkable achievement for a non-native writer....more info
  • Don't bother waiting
    Its one of those books that I wasn't going to finish, it was so boring. If the character had been a little more interesting, the story might have been more endearing, but how tedious it was....more info
  • thought-provoking
    (Review of the book, spoilers inside)
    "Waiting" tells a story about a doctor, Lin Kong, who was well-read, decent, and kind-hearted, but had some serious short-comings that had caused misery and trouble for himself, his lover, and his family. He didn't love his wife Shuyu (an arranged marriage) because she was not attractive, and she couldn't read. As a result, he felt ashamed to let Shuyu visit him in the city where he worked. So for many years while this marriage continued, he only went home to visit his family in the village for 10 days a year. He had one daughter with Shuyu. And he never made love to her after their daughter was born. Shuyu, though illiterate, was a loyal and dependable wife. She took good care of Lin's parents until they passed away, and she brought up Lin's daughter all on her own (with Lin's salary he sent home). She always thought that Lin and her would be husband and wife for the rest of their lives.

    Meanwhile, Manna, a colleague of Lin, found him attractive and pursued him. He was happy to have woman who had education and who looked good, so he accepted Manna, and started a romantic relationship. However, due to the pressure of the society and the Party, he couldn't have an intimate relationship with Manna while he was still married to Shuyu. An official who was on friendly terms with Lin cautioned him not to get "physical" with Manna, or punishment would fall upon them (being kicked out of the Party and demobilized and sent to the countryside).

    Manna loved Lin dearly (although she had her own agenda at times and had never trusted Lin in revealing her finance), and pressured Lin to divorce Shuyu so that the two of them could be together lawfully. However, Lin was not a brave or resolute man. He was so soft-hearted that he never successfully divorced Shuyu for 18 years (Shuyu's brother also caused a lot of obstacles). While Manna was waiting for the divorce to come through, they also tried to get Manna a boyfriend in another city, who wouldn't know of their relationship (many coworkers assumed they had physical relasionship and shunned away from Manna as a suitable girlfriend, as brides' virginity was the most important thing to the grooms those days). They tried a couple of times. The first time, Manna didn't like the man; the second time, a prominent official was looking for a second wife, but turned down Manna replying that Manna was not good enough, which made Manna an instant laughing stock, bringing her much humiliation. A traumatic incident happened to them shortly after Manna was rejected by the official. Lin made friends with a vulgar, rude and merciless army officer, while they were both recovering from TB in the same hospital room. Lin told him everything about his dilemma (not able to marry Manna and not able to leave Shuyu), and revealed that Manna was still a virgin. Little did he know that when he left for a few months for some meeting in another city, this cruel beast planned and executed a rape of Manna, which aged her tremendously and brought down both her physical and mental health. The rape rumor spread all over the hospital, which made both Manna and Lin laughing stocks, as in those days (even today), many Chinese people assumed that it was the fault of the victim that she was raped, and would treat her as a slut.

    As years passed by, Lin would go home for 10 days to carry out his divorce, yet failed year after year. After 18 years had passed, according to some army rule, an army officer was allowed to divorce the spouse without her consent, Lin finally became free. He was a kind man in nature, so he helped Shuyu and their daughter to stay in the city and live a much better life. And he managed to sell his country home to obtain enough money for his wedding with Manna.

    However, he soon found that after 18 years waiting and hardship, Manna was no longer the carefree, energetic and sweet girl he used to love and feel passionate about. Manna, now in her fourties, had become resentful, angry and bitter. They had twin boys not too long after their wedding, which was envied by many people, as boys were treasured by parents as they could contribute to the family more. However, Lin found himself lack of interest in being a parent, although he slowly became attached to them and loved them. Generally, he lacked any interest in being responsible to carry any burden of life. He would rather be taken care of by others than taking care of his wife and family, especially if the situations got tough. As Manna's health (already fragile after years' of hardship) deteriorated, he found himself more drawn to his former wife, Shuyu, who was always caring, peaceful and obedient. Although he never loved Shuyu, after so many years, he realized that he now only cared about comfort in life and peace of his mind, which he always had when he was with Shuyu. While Manna and Lin waited 18 long years to become husband and wife, Shuyu waited 18 years for Lin to accept her and appreciate her. Lin was the type of people who always wanted things he didn't have while never appreciated what he had until he lost them. What a sad person!

    Ha Jin did a great job in "Waiting" depicting the life of ordinary people in a society where other people's opinions ran the courses of your lives. There are also many elements of the book that are universal and representative of all cultures.

    I finished reading "Waiting" using two evenings. I find myself absorbed in the story and cannot put the book down. I find the depiction of Manna's rape especially horrific and unbearable, and I am heart-broken to be reminded by the author that most women in those days never reported their rape, and never found any support and proper care in the society. It is so sad to think of such injustice and contorted beliefs prevalent in the Chinese society. But I respect Ha Jin for his accurate and truthful depiction of the lives of Chinese people. We have to first acknowledge that there is something wrong with our society before we can correct it and make it better....more info

  • What a novel!
    What a read! So many lessons on writing can be drawn from this book, including a "what not to do" lesson. Ha Jin drew me into China with vivid settings, insights into the social culture, and the harshness of old Chinese law through an exploration of Chinese history through his character's eyes.
    Jin's main character Lin is a self-deprecating man who believes himself incapable of loving another person. We can see through both plots and subplots that Lin not only can love, but loves deeply; two women and his children from two marriages, but perhaps not himself.
    This book, at times, left me with the sense of wanting to shout at or shake Lin: Ha Jin drew me in that effectively. This example of creating a strong emotional reaction in a reader is of priceless insight to me. I want to move my readers and emotionally tie them to my characters as Jin does.
    Jin teaches us lessons in respect through his characters, as well. He coaches us in proper human behavior through allegorical scenes as his story plays out. As his characters grow, we somehow grow along with them, experience their mistakes, and even learn from those mistakes when the characters do not.
    He paints beautiful settings using descriptions of sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch. I believe, however, that his story would have been a bit stronger if Jin would have woven his setting descriptions into character dialogue or thought, instead of using multiple paragraphs to describe the surroundings in the midst of an active scene.
    ...more info
  • A wonderful book
    This is a really great story about what the passage of time can do to things. How it erodes and eats away at the value of things and relationships and emotions etc. Yet conversely, there was no waiting when reading this book. For sure it was a story told by a man because there was no time spent lingering too long on anything. It was perfectly paced. He just kept it moving and while you were reading you would know that something else was about to happen soon because the pace was predictable and that made it a great page turner too. The feminine voice of his female character was not ruined by the manly pace of the book. The setting is a Chinese military hospital. It's about a relationship between a couple who never consummate the affair because they wanted to wait to get a problem out of the way. but as the problem persisted, and the waiting went on and on, the waiting ate away at their deepest emotions and time threw everything including the bathtub and kitchen sink, causing them to question both their character and those deep feelings they once thought they held. This book is a great piece of literature and is perfect for a book club. ...more info
  • waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
    This book demonstrates the culture, habits, and politics of communist China, and also, it is a love story. While reading, however, I found that army doctor Lin Kong remained remote and uninteresting, more an allegorical everyman rather than a fully developed character. Manna Wu, the nurse at his hospital with whom he's been having a secret relationship, has a little more personality but is still not all that likeable.

    Lin cannot get a divorce from his loveless, embarrassing (she has bound feet) arranged marriage without consent from his wife until 18 years have passed. He promises Manna that he will try, summer after summer when he goes home to his village, but he never succeeds. His repulsion for his wife increases, as does his secret ardor for Manna, but even early on the reader can sense that all is not what it appears to be, for rather than Manna Wu herself, Lin has fallen in love with the anticipatory, things-are-going-to-change nature of waiting. And also he loves the allure of what he cannot have, which seems to be the ironic political moral of Ha Jin's story.

    Because of the beautiful descriptions and the capsule of Chinese life that is experienced through the novel, I definitely recommend _Waiting_. However, I think it would help to go into the book knowing that it is a parable rather than a romance. I know it would have helped me....more info

  • A fundamental flaw
    When you write a novel about waiting, about the long sense of one's being suspended in anticipation of something that may happen and change everything, you inevitably try to incorporate the sense of dead time.
    Unfortunately, if you do this successfully, what you get is a very boring reading experience.
    Ha Jin is a skillful creator of character and setting. The reader breathes with the characters, sees what they see and feels what they feel. But his deadly accurate replication of the waiting experience will yield for many readers a deadening read.

    --Lynn Hoffman, author of New Short Course in Wine,The and
    bang BANG: A Novel ISBN 9781601640005

    ...more info
  • the waiting is the best part
    The title succinctly expresses the book's theme. The irony of the title is that all three main characters are waiting for something, but once that something materializes, it's anti-climactic. The reader does a lot of waiting, too, for something tragic to happen, but when it does, it's a bit of a surprise. Still, like the characters, the reader realizes at the end that the waiting was the best part.
    ...more info
  • simple story elegantly written
    Hard to say what I liked about this. Very simple story about people that are very believable. Ha Jin does a good job of getting the reader to care about the characters....more info
  • Haunting and Beautiful
    The simple beauty of this book is wonderful. Strikes home to anyone who has ever waited or thought of waiting for something. Haunting....more info
  • Waiting
    When I first picked up the book Waiting, I was immediately drawn to the National
    Book Award on its cover. Remembering the saying, "never judge a book by its
    cover", I disregarded my original rationale and opened to the prologue. Right
    away I was shocked at the authors pinpoint broadcast of the events. As I read
    on I decided that this, along with impeccable detail made for a productive and
    artsy way to present this sad love tale. At some points the plot seems predictable,
    until you reach the next chapter and are thrown from your allegation. This
    quick read novel is far from clich®¶. It outlines the important aspects of
    social life, self responsibility and caring for others.

    The author's clever approach begins with introducing the main character. Lin
    Kong is a well respected doctor for the military, he's stationed away from his
    wife and daughter in the town, Muji. Lin supports his family well, although his
    marriage was arranged and he no longer loves his wife. His futile efforts to
    divorce his wife is due to the strict unwritten marriage laws of Chinese
    society. Lin's unhappiness with his wife Shuyu is the direct reason for his
    divorce attempts, but it is clear that his new friendship with his comrade Manna
    is the biggest factor. Lin loves his job and respects his marriage and does not
    want to complicate them by having an affair. Year after year he returns home
    and he and Shuyu face another judge to appeal their case. The year Shuyu
    finally promises to divorce Lin, Shuyu's brother Benshang interferes and tells
    the judge not to allow their relationship. Mean while Manna and Lin are getting
    serious but don't know how far to take it. By means of a bylaw, Lin and Shuyu
    separate, Lin still has to support his family financially. Lin and Manna marry
    and give birth to twins just in time to find their partner's wrinkly face and
    tired body, and realize the length of time that has passed by waiting for each

    This Ha Jin masterpiece ends with an indeterminate resolution in a way that lets
    the reader decide what the characters are thinking and their emotions. After
    reading the book, it is realized that the things that a person says and does on
    a day to day basis have more meaning than you might think. Take for instance
    when Lin went out of the house to tutor some nurses on chemistry. Manna was
    left pregnant with two twins and no one to help with the house work. While Lin
    thought that he was helping other people learn chemistry, he was denying his
    obligation to his wife. This book should be read by any newlywed or someone
    that is thinking about marriage. This book reminds us all of our personal
    responsibilities within our relationships, but it does so in an utterly subtle
    way that highlights the characters' realistic attributes and the plot's multiple
    ...more info
  • An enjoyable and memorable quick read
    This book is Ha Jin's flagship work, despite not necessarily being his best or most important. It is his flagship work because it is a quick read on topics that he knows well.

    One feels like one knows Ha Jin somewhat after reading this book, and you may either sympathize with him or dislike him. It depends on your personal views.

    Generally, he shows his ability to be an emotionally-affecting writer. The book gives a good presentation of bottom-up history of a communist nation, with references thrown in to other communist nations like Russia and to China's foreign relations with countries like the United States. Special attention is paid to how these relations affected culture from the bottom up (learning English becomes popular).

    It's an interesting book and enjoyable. What you think of it later depends on your literary and moral views....more info
  • A lot going on in this simple tale
    I can always tell when a book is well written -- I think about it days after reading it and observe more and more about it long after I've put it down. This is one of those books. It's written in almost folk-tale style and centers around Lin, a military doctor who pines for the life he thinks he wants, with his military nurse lover Manna. He longs to be free of his village wife Shuyu, who is simple and has bound feet (apparently long after such things were generally done) and who, frankly, embarrasses him. But year after year, she refuses to divorce him. So year after year, his life is one of longing. The situation does (slowly) resolve, but that's mainly the whole story -- the lives of these people moving along, marking time.

    But what goes on underneath this little folk tale is what's so interesting. There is the obvious caution to be careful what you wish for. The parallels with The Good Earth cannot be ignored. All characters are affected in some way by the ongoing Cultural Revolution: in the way they live, react to their fates, see their place in their world.

    It's a very easy little tale to read, but will leave you thinking for days after you've finished. Go ahead -- give it a read!...more info
    This title is perfect for this book, you are constantly waiting for something to happen!!...more info
  • overrated
    I'm afraid that Mr. Ha Jin doesn't quite know how to write good English prose. The plot, although potentially delicious in a minimalist way (the book is quite literally about waiting) is underserved by his style. There are few authors who could write sparely and get away with it, e.g. Hemingway. Not Ha Jin, mainly because he just isn't that great, but also because he hasn't even nailed basic English language usage. On page 179 Ha misuses "bisexual" to mean "hermaphrodite"; on page 296 he forgets to translate the Chinese for "idiot" and leaves it in literal translation as "stupid egg". I don't really care about the exotic terrain: it isn't exotic enough to me (I'm from China and am quite familiar with life and culture under Chinese communism) to redeem the other, glaring flaws within this book. Perhaps after a few more English immersion courses Ha Jin will manage to write something that deserves the National Book Award. In the meantime don't bother reading this book....more info
  • Waiting for the sake of waiting
    It is rare that the essence of a book is so completely captured in its title. The title of this particular book, "Waiting," is apt in many ways. First of all, the protagonist, Lin Kong, spends 18 years waiting to divorce his wife. While he is waiting, as is his intended bride-to-be, the reader also waits in the daily grind of his job, duties, and other human interactions, for the day Lin Kong is finally able to divorce his country-bumpkin wife and marry the woman of his dreams. So both the protagonist and the reader wait, page after page, event after event, yearning for that end to his unhappiness.

    If, however, the "waiting" was meant only for this long-awaited divorce, the reader finds out that the book goes on to narrate the married life of Lin Kong and his new bride, Manna Wu, after the supposed end to his waiting. Is the book all of a sudden not about waiting anymore? It turns out that this "waiting" is not just for the one event in life, rather it turns out to be the very condition of continuing human existence. As the protagonist realizes that he was waiting "for the sake of waiting," it is the very thing that kept him alive and living.

    Thus, when his waiting for the divorce is over and he starts a family with his new bride, he starts to have regrets. When his bride turns out to have a heart condition which would eventually kill her, he yearns to wait again. This time, the reader is left with the impression that he will have to wait for Manna to die, in order to be reunited with Shuyu, his first wife, whom he now regrets divorcing. The very last image with which the novel ends is telling: as Lin comes to the realization that he will have to wait for her to die, Manna looks out the window, radiantly and so alive, greeting those outside it. There is no mistake here that the reader is being led to believe that the waiting this time will again take a long time. Just as the divorce was certain but slow to come, the reader is left to believe that Manna's death, which will set Lin free again, will be certain, but again slow. So the waiting game begins again.

    Ha Jin's prose is impeccable. It is flawless. He writes better than most native English speakers. It reminds me of Franz Kafka's prose, written in impeccable, but book-learned German. Undoubtedly the fact that both Ha Jin and Franz Kafka are writing in a language that is not native to them sets them apart from those to whom language comes easily. At the same time, both Ha Jin and Franz Kafka, because they are conversant in a non-native language, are able to see common human condition before they see particularities in disparate cultures. Therefore, both Jin and Kafka end up writing in a universal language that is easily understood by everyone. It speaks to everyone and is felt by everyone. At the same time, as writers of "minor literature," as inside outsiders, they are able to jar consciousness and make the reader see things differently.

    In a short story by Kafka called, "The Judgment," the protagonist, Georg Bendemann, jumps off of a bridge because he has seen the true nature of human condition. Not being able to deal with it, he opts to die while the endless traffic crosses under the bridge. This image of Georg in his final moment and Manna Wu's radiant face at the end of "Waiting" seemed to me two sides of the same face, one who is denied the kind of "waiting" that sustains humanity and the other who enables it....more info
  • Haunting, Throught Provoking, and Well Written
    Waiting, by Ha Jin, rested on my bookshelf for about 1 year before I got around to reading it. I suppose it did not hold the allure to 'read me now' when I first obtained it. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally picked it up. Waiting tells the story of a man torn between two women and two lives during the Cultural Revolution in China. I found the author to have tremendous insight into matters of the heart within the framework of Chinese culture. Lyrical prose, an interesting story and perspective, and incisive insight into the human heart all contribute to make this a great novel....more info
  • peace in the turmoil of china
    HA JIN's Waiting is a quick read for me. I spend only one day to finish it off. But its simple narrative enthralled greatly. I am a native Chinese speaker and English is my second language, same as the author himself. But his command of the English language is really impressive. From the interviews of the author, we know that he treats his draft very seriously, often rewrites them more than ten times. Some vocabulary are definitely impressive, such as "nippy",
    "french chalk", "kraft paper", "dog-dead", "wisp", etc. His narrative has a rather fixed plot - first, some hope for marriage, then some diversions, either a potential mate, a sexual encounter, it makes the waiting more unexpected, as a supposed long march to marriage. once in a while he will describe the physical environment such as the polar trees, grass, the sentry post, which reminds me a Brownte novel. The historical context is always present. the cultural revolution, the reform after Deng. Ha Jin described what he know best, namely the chinese army. He served in the PLA for a number of years before enrolling in the university after 1977. This background will reapprear in his newest novel, WAR TRASH, in which he described the wrenching expierence of a chinese POW in the Korean War. I reject some reviews which read too much politics in the novel though. This novel is basically a novel about humanity, love, relationship, society, not about ideology. Both Manna WU and the protagonist is not ideologically inclined to anything, all they believe is humanity and progress. that is all. This novel reminds me a recent short fiction by JIAN MA in on recent issue of New Yorker, in which a mid-level party official try to get rid of his baby-girl fruitlessly, for consecutively dozens of times. I suspect some borrowing here, I mean on the part of JIAN MA. But obviously JIAN MA is shadowing more family planning politics in his short fiction.
    ...more info
  • In love with the history
    Waiting by Ha Jin is a tale set in China. It is story that stretches from the 1960s to the 1980s. The author presents a powerful story that tests the word love and documenting the that is evaporating feelings over time. Lin Kong is not a traditional man and he doesn't want to be trapped in the `old' Chinese way. However, he is unable to live the `new' Chinese way because he is trapped in an arranged marriage. While working for the Chinese army, Lin Kong met the love of his life, Man-na. Because he is still married, Lin Kong is unable to fulfill the love Manna needed. Each year, for eighteen years, Lin Kong went back to court and tries to divorce his wife, but each year he returned to Manna as a married man. Finally, Lin Kong's wish came true and he is able to marry Manna. However, living happily forever is far and remote. The stressful affair has stood up to the test of time, but the love is flushed away without a trace. At the end, all Lin Kong wishes for is peace and quiet....more info
  • nice tale, great allegory
    For me the greatest aspect of Waiting was Ha Jin's writing style; even though this book is about what its title declares: waiting, I had no such experience while reading it. A bonus delight was to look back and see this novel as an allegory of China's need to appreciate the provincial, rather than sell it in favor of what the government currently considers urbane. (Will the mistress retain her allure despite time and self-discovery?)

    As for my concerns with this book.... The first one had to do with Manna, as a nurse, should have known better than to try jumping around in hopes of warding off conception. This seemed grossly ignorant, thus inconsistent. Next was during her labor, Manna's cries seemed ludicrous in light of her own possessiveness over her finances and belongings. Given this, I laughed out loud over her pain, which was disturbing since I doubt Ha Jin intended that reaction. As for the strong sense of longing successfully sculpted into my reading experience, it was not on behalf of Lin and Manna; for that I also wondered if it was intended by Ha Jin. ...more info
  • Excellent Title
    "Waiting" is an excellent title for this novel. I kept waiting for it to be over!!!...more info
  • Don't waste your time on this
    I bought this book because of all the awards it received but never will I make the same mistake again! Not only is the story dull, boring, the characters silly, but even the writing style is poor.
    The only reason why I gave the book 2 stars is because it gave me some idea abt the Cultural Revolution in China and its impact on ppl's lives. ...more info
  • A slice of Chinese life.
    This novel takes place in China during the Cultural Revolution and afterwards, but it is a social, not a political novel. Its protagonist is a military doctor assigned to a hospital in a small city, with a peasant wife living in a rural village, and a long standing relationship with a nurse at the hospital. The doctor entered his marriage out of respect for his parents who needed a daughter-in-law to help them, and he is not allowed to divorce for 18 years. Ha Jin tells a quiet, unadorned story, which is mostly interesting and occasionally dull. For the most part, the characters are colorless, perhaps reflective of their situation. The doctor is a well developed character, a moral, competent, yet passive human being. His wife is drawn broadly, but with sympathy and appreciation. The reason to read this book is to experience a slice of Chinese life of the period, a time and culture when a small degree of freedom and material comfort went a long way....more info
  • Dull
    Jin has been called a `realist' by less perceptive critics, but `realism' is not to be equated with dullness. A great writer knows how to highlight those `realistic' moments that catch a snippet of the transcendent, and juxtapose them with other elements to create a poetry of the real. Jin, however, writes dully on dull events and people, content to let the PC trappings of the exotic do the heavy lifting a strong narrative should accomplish. Much of his prose seems to bear out the fact that English is not his native tongue. How this book could win many prestigious awards is a testament to the power of PC over excellence. The characters are cardboard cutouts, and there is not a single defining `event'. Not that a plot-driven tale is necessary for excellence, yet this novel is not merely a `slice of life', ala A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, or The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. Worst of all, though, is that the book begins with a prologue that removes any surprise this dull tale might reveal. Right away we definitely know all that will occur, save for the very end, where Lin regrets his waiting for Manna, which any astute reader could see coming anyway. And, despite the claims, this is not a love story, since none of the characters really loves, nor knows how to love. As Jin banally tells us of Manna, `the long waiting had dissolved her gentle nature, worn away her hopes, ruined her health, poisoned her heart and doomed her.' Yes, this is very like most marriages around the world, but it's not the crux to build a compelling work of art around. At least a novice writer like Jin cannot do so. Waiting, despite its Political Correctness, is not a terrible book, merely yet another bad book that should never have been published. But, when did that ever stop PC from giving out laurels?...more info
  • What is the big deal with this book?
    This was a book I hhad been wanting to read for a long time and finally managed to complete while waiting out the last days of my pregnancy. The title was also appropriate enough: Waiting. The story had potential and I stayed with it based on reviews and my own hope that it would turn and end up with a surprising end. I read and read and did enjoy the process but was disappointed with the final course....more info
  • Vanity of Desires
    A man manages to get what he wanted, struggling through the inflexible Chinese social system disallowing freedom. The essence of this story, however, resides in man's nature of which the desire is endlessly unfulfilled regardless of his struggles. I interpreted this story to warn against chasing something for many years, which we may find we don't want in the end. We are all apt to fall into this type of situation more or less, for countless and endless desires human nature. Also, the writer illustraes an interesting way the man's tendency to follow a more presentable woman to find in the end that she was not what he wanted. ...more info
  • I'm still waitng for something to happen
    This is 300 pages of nothing going on. Waiting is a great title. You wait and wait for anything of interest and then you run out of pages....more info
  • Perfect Novel About the Chimera That Never Leaves You
    A man convinces himself that he is unhappy with his marriage, waits forever for the Chinese bureaucracy to grant him a divorce so he can marry the woman he is infatuated with.

    Without giving up plot specifics, let me say this novel is a fable that underscores George Bernard Shaw's famous quote: "There are two tragedies in life. Not getting what you want and getting it."

    This novel is both emotionally felt and brutal of its examination of the ironies born from self-delusion. I read the novel 8 years ago and remain haunted by it. ...more info
  • The only thing worse than getting your heart 's desire
    Against the background of tradition and political control, Lin Kong's story quietly unfolds. He is a soft-spoken, agreeable soul - a doctor in the Chinese Army. His wife, the humble, loyal Shuyu, and his daughter Hua live in a rural village. Lin is allowed to visit them once a year. He believes he will be happy if he can secure a divorce and marry Manna, a nurse at his hospital. After waiting eighteen years, Lin gets his divorce, marries Manna and fathers twins. Despite his abundant good fortune, Lin again begins to wait.

    Ha Jin is a master at developing his characters and settings. "Waiting" gives the reader a peek into Chinese society. We experience the events of daily living: food, clothing, daily activities all told in wonderful detail.
    ...more info
  • Well Done, Well Paced Book
    I won't waste anyone's time by going into the details of the book. The other 276 reviews posted here do that in plenty of depth. I would merely be wasting my time restating what countless people have already said. Generally, the book is titled Waiting. And it's about waiting. That's about all you need to know going into the book. There's an everyday adage about wishing and being careful, which we see the fruits of in this book. Enough said in that regard.

    The book is simple, no doubt. The story itself is mostly unremarkable, but I think that's what makes it what it is - an interesting read. Those familiar with Chinese culture and sociology at any level can probably appreciate the simplicity. Manifest in that simplicity is a patience which breeds a longing. As we see, the longing must be tempered with patience. Thus the waiting. Am I being too vague?

    Almost any modern book about life in China will see a fiction littered with discussions of life under Mao and the Cultural Revolution. Again, readers who are familiar with Chinese culture and it's modern literature will be well aware of that. It's virtually impossible to read a Chinese author and not see that in the pages. Perhaps only Amy Tan has managed to avoid it, but I have yet to read her full complement of books.

    I'm not surprised by those who give the book 1 star, and I can't disagree with them in terms of subjective assessment, since they obviously had certain expectations going into the book. However, it's clear these expectations were misguided. In almost every case, the reader likely knew nothing of the culture they were reading. Collectively, these negative reviews express their impatience with the overused quip that, "I'm still waiting for something to happen." Their impatience is overshadowed only by their unoriginality.

    However, I'm not going to sit here and proclaim this a brilliant book. I bought it because it was the National Book Award winner in 1999 and the PEN/Faulkner Award winner in 2000. Knowing that, I expected more than a slowly meandering walk through pages which mostly brought you exactly where you thought it would. Nothing happens in the story that you can't reasonably expect. Not to say that this is bad, per se. But it is what it is. And the narrative's slow crawl in an expected direction leads you to an anti-climax when you reach the end.

    Still, the narrative is enjoyable enough to keep you interested, and the writing style is top notch, as you might expect. The core of the story is something many people in life never learn, true "forest for the trees" stuff here. If it only takes 300 pages for you to understand, you should consider yourself lucky. For most people, it takes a lifetime. More than likely, this is why it won those awards....more info
  • "No wonder people say marriage is the death of love."
    thinks the main character in this story about tradition, family, love and loyalty. Army Doctor Lin Kong, at the urging of his family, agrees to an arranged marriage with a footbound woman from the country. They have a child together, but little else in the way of a relationship. She remains at their home raising their daughter, caring for her ailing parents (and his), while he works at a hospital in the city. Eventually, he becomes interested in having a relationship with a nurse named Manna, and, in order not to jeopardize his standing at the hospital and to comply with the strict rules involving relationships between members of the staff, he decides to divorce his wife. Year after year, he returns home, discusses the situation with his her and cajoles her into going along with it in front of a judge. But invariably, although sometimes with the intervention of her loyal brother, she gets cold feet. He waits "torpidly," knowing that at the 18 years of separation mark, the divorce can be granted without his wife's consent.

    Novel negatives: The writing is on the stiff side, a particularly graphic scene is included, and getting through the first two-thirds of it is about as insufferable as the wait of Lin and Manna. Positives: With only a handful of characters appearing in the novel, there is ample space to learn what makes them tick and (patience being a virtue) the virtuous will be rewarded with an entertaining resolution. The story's message may fall somewhere between: "The grass is greener on the other side of the fence," "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with," and, "You reap what you sow." Whichever, it provides a lesson about how an individual's choices can affect the lives of many. Was it worth the wait? For the reader, yes, for Lin Kong, read and find out. Better: Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth, Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter and The Kitchen God's Wife and Anchee Min's Red Azalea.
    ...more info
  • Poetically written
    This book held my attention and I looked forward to picking it up and reading every free moment I had. Look inside this book and read the excerpted first pages. The writing style continues the same throughout. The author is a master writer; he is almost a minimalist painter (with words) much like the Chinese landscape painters. I would say it gave a good picture of China during the time of the cultural revolution, which was the reason I decided I wanted to read this book. As for the storyline, it made me think about the question, "What is love?" Naturally, the book did not really answer the question and the reader has to decide for him/herself. I came away from this book being glad for the time I spent reading it. I would recommend this book to anyone, provided they aren't looking for an action packed thriller about cops and robbers or a passion packed sex-filled romance novel. To me it is a piece of poetry....more info
  • A Good read
    This book is unexpectedly simple and beautifully written. A must read for anyone who likes to read on human nature....more info


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