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Waiting (1999)

by Ha Jin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,719732,519 (3.55)152
Winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Fiction! InWaiting, PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author Ha Jin draws on his intimate knowledge of contemporary China to create a novel of unexpected richness and feeling. This is the story of Lin Kong, a man living in two worlds, struggling with the conflicting claims of two utterly different women as he moves through the political minefields of a society designed to regulate his every move and stifle the promptings of his innermost heart. For more than seventeen years, this devoted and ambitious doctor has been in love with an educated, clever, modern woman, Manna Wu. But back in the traditional world of his home village lives the wife his family chose for him when he was young--a humble and touchingly loyal woman, whom he visits in order to ask, again and again, for a divorce. In a culture in which the ancient ties of tradition and family still hold sway and where adultery discovered by the Party can ruin lives forever, Lin's passionate love is stretched ever more taut by the passing years. Every summer, his compliant wife agrees to a divorce but then backs out. This time, Lin promises, will be different. Tracing these lives through their summer of decision and beyond, Ha Jin vividly conjures the texture of daily life in a place where the demands of human longing must contend with the weight of centuries of custom. Waiting charms and startles us  with its depiction of a China that remains hidden to Western eyes even as it moves us with its piercing vision of the universal complications of love.… (more)
Recently added byemrsalgado, sharvani, eshungate, private library, kterry2, Jinjer
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» See also 152 mentions

English (69)  Dutch (1)  Hungarian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (72)
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
Quality Writing, Ideas

"Waiting: A Novel" is a simple story about love and unfulfilled expectations. The basic plot could be transported to nearly any culture or gender: a man is married to a woman he appreciates but does not love and he has met another woman.

Lin Kong, the husband, is a doctor at a military hospital. With a few exceptions, most of the action takes place within the hospital compound where Lin passes the time reading and strolling until he meets Manna Wu. He quickly becomes infatuated with Manna despite being married to Shuyu, who remains in Lin's home village raising his daughter and taking care of his elderly parents.

What makes the book stand out is Ha Jin's exceptional writing. His sentences and paragraphs flow with ease and order. There is little extraneous information despite the visual descriptions.Despite the many characters "waiting" for something to happen, there are several peaks of action. In this sense, "Waiting" is similar to Ha Jin's "In the Pond," a similar book about a man with unfulfilled expectations. However, it is quite different from "Ocean of Words," Ha Jin's short story collection about soldiers on the Russian border, which is fast-paced and has different characters moving in and out of the narrative.

In the end, "Waiting" is a terrific, somewhat melancholy novel that echoes Henry David Thoreau's poem that "men lead lives of quiet desperation." ( )
  mvblair | Aug 8, 2020 |
1999 National Book Award for fiction. A love story. ( )
  hcubic | Jun 20, 2020 |
There is a folksy tone characteristic of some other (but not all) Chinese novels I've read. A slightly over-formal yet simplistic delivery and style that I'm not the biggest fan of. It works for this book, but I wouldn't mind a more modern tone. I wonder a little if it's contrived and meant to be written in a style which matches writing from era it describes (1930's - 1970's in China).

That aside, it was ok. Not fantastic yet not boring. Sometimes the characters are tedious and annoying, other times somewhat charming or interesting. It's unexceptional while being well put together. I liked War Trash (by the same author) much better. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
don't remember this one very well... ( )
  dfwftw | Dec 27, 2019 |
Subtle and compelling reflection on the tensions inherent in a life made of choices, even in a culture where few choices seem to exist. ( )
  PatsyMurray | Jan 17, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
Above all, what he accomplishes in the book is to place the story amid the politics without the latter being given any undue significance or credence. As in most ordinary lives, even those lived in extraordinary times, political upheaval is but another condition to be surmounted, circumnavigated, forged or ignored. A lesser writer would have taken the usual route, politicizing the personal, overwhelming the larger matters of the human heart, specially the most ordinary of human hearts, with the smaller explosions of mob activity. But not Jin.
 
A deceptively simple tale, written with extraordinary precision and grace. Ha Jin has established himself as one of the great sturdy realists still writing in a postmodern age.
added by aurevoir | editKirkus Reviews (Aug 1, 1999)
 
Ha Jin observes everything about army and civilian life, yet he tells the reader only -- and precisely -- as much as is needed to make his deceptively simple fiction resonate on many levels: the personal, the historical, the political..''Waiting'' also generously provides a dual education: a crash course in Chinese society during and since the Cultural Revolution, and a more leisurely but nonetheless compelling exploration of the less exotic terrain that is the human heart. ...''Waiting'' can be read as a long and eloquent answer to Manna's question, an all too rare reminder of the reasons someone might feel so strongly about a book.

 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jin, HaAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hornfeck, SusanneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Lisha, Alone and Together
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Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Fiction! InWaiting, PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author Ha Jin draws on his intimate knowledge of contemporary China to create a novel of unexpected richness and feeling. This is the story of Lin Kong, a man living in two worlds, struggling with the conflicting claims of two utterly different women as he moves through the political minefields of a society designed to regulate his every move and stifle the promptings of his innermost heart. For more than seventeen years, this devoted and ambitious doctor has been in love with an educated, clever, modern woman, Manna Wu. But back in the traditional world of his home village lives the wife his family chose for him when he was young--a humble and touchingly loyal woman, whom he visits in order to ask, again and again, for a divorce. In a culture in which the ancient ties of tradition and family still hold sway and where adultery discovered by the Party can ruin lives forever, Lin's passionate love is stretched ever more taut by the passing years. Every summer, his compliant wife agrees to a divorce but then backs out. This time, Lin promises, will be different. Tracing these lives through their summer of decision and beyond, Ha Jin vividly conjures the texture of daily life in a place where the demands of human longing must contend with the weight of centuries of custom. Waiting charms and startles us  with its depiction of a China that remains hidden to Western eyes even as it moves us with its piercing vision of the universal complications of love.

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