'Waiting' by Ha Jin

Staff recommendations

Waiting bookcoverWaiting by Ha Jin was the fifth book in the book discussion series "Ethical Dilemmas" conducted by Phil Burnham, professor at George Mason University.  I overheard some of the discussion as it was taking place within earshot of the circulation desk at Cleveland Park.  I was intrigued by what I heard, but did not have an opportunity to read the book until recently.

The setting is in China during the Cultural Revolution.  The opening scene is in a rural village with its beautifully peaceful but harsh living environment.  This is when we meet the main character, Lin Kong, who returns every summer to pursue a divorce from the wife his parents chose for him because she was expected to take care of them in their ill health and old age.  Lin never loved Shuyu but accepted the arrangement because he did not actually have to live with her or in Goose Village.  The couple has one daughter who Lin sees during his yearly summer trip.

Lin lives far away and works in an army hospital where he meets Manna Wu.  For eighteen years Manna Wu waits to marry Lin and the reader can feel how long this wait is for the couple.  While Lin is not a very sympathetic character the reader feels compelled to read on to see what happens to those around him.

This is the first book I've read by Ha Jin and I will read more from him as he knows how to weave a story and pull on the reader's heart strings.

-- Hanife Conry