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Waiting [Turtleback]

Ha Jin
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (254 customer reviews)

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Turtleback, July 2001 --  
Paperback CDN $13.72  
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MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged CDN $18.87  
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Book Description

July 2001 0606218505 978-0606218504
"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
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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From Amazon

"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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Torn Feb. 17 2004
Story of a man torn between his arranged marriage wife who has been devoted to him and his lover who he is in love with. The book is pretty good and really puts you in the footsteps of this man torn and indecisive. I felt the environment of the story set in China added to the story greatly - making the situation more believeable than other settings.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Audiobook Dec 21 2010
By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:MP3 CD
It is post revolutionary China, and Lin Kong is a doctor in the Chinese Army. Years earlier his parents arranged a marriage for him to peasant woman Shuyu. While she has remained on their farm to raise their daughter and plant and then harvest the crop, Lin is not happy with his marriage. He has met a Manna Wu, a nurse at the hospital, and wants to divorce Shuyu.

This book had no wild chase scenes, no dramatic outbursts, yet somehow it managed to keep me finding errands to run so that I could get back in my car and turn on my ipod and listen in on a few more minutes of the story. I kept hoping that Lin would make some dramatic action toward ending his marriage, or that Manna Wu would give him an ultimatum, but it didn't happen. I didn't find this disappointing as much as I found it totally in keeping with their characters. I didn't want a doctor and a nurse who could take such spontaneous actions. By nature they both should be much more methodical and process driven.

I found myself rooting for Shuyu. She was the backbone of the whole tale. She kept the farm going, cared for her ailing in-laws and daughter, and provided the family stability the Lin needed for his reputation with the Army.

I don't think that I would want to know Lin Kong. He never gave a chance to his marriage, didn't try to make it work. Right from the start he was embarrassed by his wife's bound feet and didn't want it to affect his career. He used Manna as an excuse to keep from dealing with his failure as a husband.

Spoiler Alert

The final chapters in the this book brought the story round circle. I can imagine that after Manna passes away, Lin will turn to the only person he can count on to help raise his sons.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Arranged March 27 2004
Ha Jin's novel is a perfect allegory for the living conditions in communist China. Like arranged marriages, arranged lives kept people waiting for something to happen. The carrot was career promotion, if you marched along the party lines. The stick was discredit and displacement.
Of course, those rules applied only to the common of mortals. The bunch of mostly corrupt party bosses could live a more exciting life and profit fully from their uncontrolled power.
This sometimes poignant, sometimes boring novel has not the same high standard as 'The Crazed', which was far more appealingly constructed, although it dealt with the same themes.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother waiting Feb. 14 2004
By A Customer
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.
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1.0 out of 5 stars I'm still waitng for something to happen Jan. 19 2004
By A Customer
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars thought-provoking Dec 14 2003
By A Customer
(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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simplist beauty and grace. Awed by this writer Nov. 6 2003
This is a wonderful story. There are several currents in this story. Not the least of which is: how much of love stems from expectation, rather than true emotion? How much do we NEED to be in a relationship to validate ourselves? How do we know we LOVE someone rather than the IDEA of a relationship?
It's quite a leap from typical love stories. I think the most valid love story in this tale is NOT the central relationship of the book. The protagonist's wife is the most geniunely loving person in the story. Her character is at first glance, only a caricature, then upon closer examination--very interesting. Just a very quiet story. Don't miss this.
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