National Book Award, Fiction, 1999
This is the story of Lin Kong, a man 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 and stifle the promptings of his innermost heart.For more than 17 years, this devoted and ambitious doctor has been in love with a modern woman, Manna Wu. But back in the traditional world of his home village lives the wife his family chose for him when he was young - a humble and touchingly loyal woman, whom he visits in order to ask, again and again, for a divorce.In a culture in which the ancient ties of tradition and family still hold sway and where adultery discovered by the Party can ruin lives forever, Lin's passionate love is stretched taut by the passing years. Every summer, his compliant wife agrees to a divorce but then backs out. This time, Lin promises, will be different. Tracing these lives through their summer of decision and beyond, Ha Jin vividly conjures the texture of daily life in a place where the demand of human longing must contend with the weight of centuries of custom. Waiting charms and startles us with its depiction of a China that remains hidden to Western eyes, even as it moves us with its piercing vision of the universal complications of love.
"Ha Jin's book 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 the characters and their situation." (The New York Times Book Review)
"A deceptively simple tale, written with extraordinary precision and grace. Ha Jin has established himself as one of the great sturdy realists still writing in a postmodern age." (Kirkus Reviews)
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