Review

Waiting

by Ha Jin



WAITING, the latest novel by Ha Jin, has recently won the 1999
National Book Award . . . and with good reason. This Emory
University English professor, poet, short story writer, and Chinese
immigrant, tells a remarkably simple story with all the eloquence
and aplomb with which you would expect a writer to recount some
epic historical situation. WAITING is the story of waiting for love
and fighting off the expected traditions of one's community in
order to embrace a far greater passion.

"Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his
wife, Shuyu." Lin Kong, a Chinese Army doctor is wrangled into an
arranged marriage with a woman who abides by the long-standing
traditions of Chinese women, such as bound feet and an unabiding
loyalty to her husband. This embarrasses the intellectually
superior Kong, who is in love with an army nurse, Manna. Their
affair continues for eighteen years as Lin Kong tries to get his
wife to commit to a divorce. Somehow, though, it never quite
happens. In the meantime, Lin longs for a life with his beloved
Manna, but the waiting they both must endure in order to make their
union legal takes a high-priced toll on their love.

WAITING is about the eighteen years of life in which Lin, Shuyu,
and Manna fight, in their own ways, for the lives they wish to
lead. It is about the constricting influence of an empire, a
political allegory about life in Communist China, but it is also
about the constrictions we build for ourselves. WAITING is an
elegant and simple story with widespread repercussions --- read it
slowly and savor the language while contemplating the deep truths
it poses in terms of how love exists and how long it can
last.

Ha Jim himself served in the People's Liberation Army and came to
the States only in 1985, when he entered Brandeis University. If
anyone understands the conflicts between one's upbringing and one's
innate desire to find a more progressive and satisfying way to
live, it is Jin. WAITING is a perfect example of what a novel
should be.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 24, 2011

Waiting
by Ha Jin

  • Publication Date: September 19, 2000
  • Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction
  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0375706410
  • ISBN-13: 9780375706417