Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book Review – Waiting by Ha Jin

Waiting: A Novel Waiting: A Novel by Ha Jin

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a quirky story set in China, spanning the 1960’s and into the 80’s, rich in tradition and custom. Lin Kong is a medical doctor with the army who lives in Muji City. He is in a loveless and arranged marriage to Shuyu, who lives in the countryside and raises their daughter. Each summer during his 12-day leave, Lin returns to the village to divorce his wife, only to have the divorce declined year after year. In the meantime, Lin and his girlfriend, Manna, continue waiting until such time they can marry. Over time, the sociopolitical pressures influence and change each of these characters.

An engaging and easy read, I felt the pace a little slow at times and the dialog flat, though it may be appropriate for the culture depicted in the story. And while I didn’t get lost with the point of view shifts, they seemed contrived and did little to advance the story.

I enjoyed getting to know each of the characters, although I was never certain where my alliance should lie. Should I root for Manna as she becomes an old woman waiting for the man whom she loves, or for Shuyu, who remains content despite her circumstances?

The ending is strong, and puts the whole story in perspective. Waiting is a unique novel that won’t easily be forgotten.

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