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Waiting by Ha Jin - Book Review


Ha Jin

Fiction-Net Rating 5 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

Waiting is the story of Lin Kong, a man living in two worlds, struggling with the conflicting claims of two utterly different women as he moves through the political minefields of a society designed to regulate his every move.

We Say

Why is it that people are seldom satisfied with what they have? In general, we want what we don't have or else we are dissatisfied with the cards that life has dealt us. It often takes too much effort to make a change and we are too lazy to make the necessary efforts to determine what we really want out of life. Often, major decisions just happen with little or no actual thought put into the decision.

Although set in China, Ha Jin's book, Waiting, is an excellent example of our tendency to just sit back and wait for things to happen. The author skillfully creates characters that transcend cultural barriers. Lin Kong, the main character is a man who just is. No more, no less. Not cruel or evil, a likable man who's life just seems to happen.

The novel begins with the sentence, "Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu." I was hooked. Initially, I decided that I was going to dislike Lin but as the book progressed, I was surprised. Lin is an honest man who is dedicated to the service of his country. Lin is also an intellectual who is well respected by his peers.

In a communist society, any abnormalities of an individual's personality would become glaringly obvious. Therefore, any creativity that Lin might have demonstrated is skillfully stifled. Should we pity Lin because of the course his life has taken or should we feel disgust for his pathetic attempts to change his life? Like so many others in situations similar to Lin's, the answer is not black and white.

Throughout this book, the reader is 'waiting' for tragedy to strike. This does not happen in the way one would expect. Instead, we find that Lin has allowed his life to pass him by because he is always waiting and wanting something better. Like so many people in this world, Lin thinks he knows what he wants because he desires whatever is right in front of him. Without realising it, convenience dictates the way he lives his life. Ever concerned about appearances, Lin finds himself trapped in a less than ideal life due to his own inability to take action and embrace his life.

What is so impressive about this book is the fact that Jin is writing about a communist society without the feeling of oppressiveness that often accompanies such novels. Instead, the focus is on Lin's relationships with others. It is a wonderful love story that lacks the extras that so many publishers believe to be necessary in order to sell books. While Jin gives his reader insight into the Chinese culture, the characters Jin has created could easily be the neighbours down the street.

The more I think about this novel, the more impressed that I become. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and felt that Waiting is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Review by: Yumi Nagasaki-Taylor

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