Waiting: A Novel (Vintage International) (Paperback)

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By Ha Jin
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Staff Reviews

Ha Jin was ten when Mao launched the Cultural Revolution; his father was an officer in the Red Army.  In 1985 he left China to study in the US at Brandeis.  In Waiting he reveals a China where major choices require official sanction.  Every sentence is spare and to the point, moving the reader quickly into the story.  You could make a case for describing Ha Jin’s Waiting as similar to Hemingway but without the swagger.  Waiting takes the reader on a cultural immersion into China by way of telling the story of a doctor, Lin Kong, who is married to Shuyu, a woman in his ancestral village, but loves Manna Wu, a nurse in Muji City where they both live.  Every year Lin Kong travels, on the time permitted, to Goose Village seeking a divorce from Shuyu, without success.  He has lived away from his wife for years, a doctor in the city, having little in common with the woman who cares for his small ancestral home far away in the country.  The characters are interesting, their aims, desires and conflicts showing starkly the clashes in culture between communist China and the old village ways.  Lin Kong’s marriage to Shuyu was arranged by his mother.  His bride is definitely a part of old China, a country woman with bound feet and a strong sense of familial duty.  Manna Wu is a modern woman, with strong opinions.  As you read about the three characters, you learn about life in China too.  Waiting won the prestigous National Book Award.

— Deon Stonehouse


"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

About the Author

Ha Jin left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He is the author of the internationally bestselling novel Waiting, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the National Book Award, and War Trash, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize; the story collections The Bridegroom, which won the Asian American Literary Award, Under the Red Flag, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and Ocean of Words, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award; the novels The Crazed and In the Pond; and three books of poetry. His latest novel, A Free Life is his first novel set in the United States. He lives in the Boston area and is a professor of English at Boston University.


War Trash, The Crazed, The Bridegroom, Waiting, In the Pond, and Ocean of Words are available in paperback from Vintage Books.

Praise For…

"A simple love story that transcends cultural barriers. . . . Convincing and rich in detail. . . . Filled with an earthy poetic grace." —Chicago Tribune

"Luminous. . . . Eloquent. . . . [Waiting] provides. . . 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." —The New York Times Book Review

"[Ha Jin's] writing is steeped in wit, rich metaphorical underpinnings and. . . endless and wonderful detail." —The Atlanta Journal Constitution

"Extraordinary. . . . A remarkably austere love story, suffused with irony and subtlety." --Chicago Sun-Times

"Waiting has the stripped down simplicity of a fable. . . It casts a spell that doesn't break once. . . . Jin has the kind of effortless command that most writers can only dream about." —The New York Times Magazine

“Achingly beautiful. . . . Ha Jin depicts the details of social etiquette, of food, of rural family relationships and the complex yet alarmingly primitive fabric of provincial life with that absorbed passion for minutiae characteristic of Dickens and Balzac.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A vivid bit of storytelling, fluid and earthy. . . . Reminiscent of Hemingway in its scope, simplicity and precise language. . . . A graceful human allegory.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“A subtle beauty. . . . A sad, poignantly funny tale.” —The Boston Sunday Globe
“Impeccably deadpan. . . . Waiting turns, page by careful page, into a deliciously comic novel.” —Time
“Spare but compelling. . . . Jin’s craftsmanship and grasp of the universal language of the human heart make the book a worthwhile read.” —USA Today
“A wry, lovely novel. . . . Unexpectedly moving. . . . So quietly and carefully told that . . . we read on patiently, pleasantly distracted, wondering when something will happen. Only when we’ve finished do we understand just how much has, and how much waiting can be its own painful reward.” —Newsday
“Enlightening . . . a delicate rendering of the universal complications of love. . . . Ha Jin’s natural storytelling quietly captures the texture of daily life in a dual Chinese culture. . . . No detail is extraneous in this sad, funny, and often wise novel.” —The Village Voice Literary Supplement
“Remarkable . . . compellingly ingenious . . . gorgeously cinematic.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A wonderfully ironic novel . . . complex and sad as life. . . . It captures the difficulties of love in totalitarian China with sharp prose and a convincing portrayal of human vagaries.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Subtle and complex . . . his best work to date. A moving meditation on the effects of time upon love.” —The Washington Post
“[Jin] reveals some startlingly original insights on human life and love . . . in a narrative that dazzles the reader with its simplicity and grace.” —The Providence Sunday Journal
“[Waiting is] a masterpiece of realism and a work of ironic allegory, its mystifying, foreign world full of characters who grow more familiar with every page. . . . Through an accumulation of small, deft brushstrokes, 20th century China is superimposed onto the landscape of an ancient, painted scroll.” —The Plain Dealer
“A high achievement indeed.” —The New York Review of Books

Product Details
ISBN: 9780375706417
ISBN-10: 0375706410
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: September 19th, 2000
Pages: 320
Language: English
Series: Vintage International