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A Map of Betrayal

3.31  ·  Rating Details ·  1,208 Ratings  ·  237 Reviews
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year

From the award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash: a riveting tale of espionage and conflicted loyalties that spans half a century in the entwined histories of two countries—China and the United States—and two families.

When Lilian Shang, born and raised in America, discovers her father’s diary after the death of her p
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Pantheon (first published November 3rd 2014)
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Oct 18, 2014 Julie rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, arcs
I was very excited to read this book and actually voted to include it in our Holiday Catalog. But after finishing it, I have to say I was so disappointed that I took my nomination away. The story is about a Chinese man, Gary Shang, who grows up in China during WWII. He becomes a spy for the Chinese government and takes a job as a translator for the CIA. He lives a dual life, with a wife in China and his American family in the US, and for decades, he passes secrets to the Chinese government. The ...more
Diane S ☔
Nov 10, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
What has turned out to be a timely read. Going to work this morning I heard that the US postal service has been hacked and that the hackers were possibly located in China. This is a novel about a man, who was a Chinese spy for decades.

Starting from 1949 Gary was hired as a translator forma US company, eventually ending up in the United States working for Mao and the Chinese government. Leaving his young wife in China, he was never able to return, and eventually, encouraged by his handler, to sta
Mar 27, 2015 Jill rated it liked it
About a third of the way through A Map of Betrayal, Ha Jin writes this about graduate students: “They mistook verbosity for eloquence and ambiguity for beauty, worshipping the evasive and fuzzy while looking down on lucidity and straightforwardness.”

Indeed, Ha Jin himself believes in lucidity and straightforwardness – arguably, to a fault. His latest book chronicles the story of post-war Chinese translator Gary Shang, reportedly based on the real-world Chinese spy, Larry Chin.

Gary Shang straddle
Mal Warwick
Dec 11, 2014 Mal Warwick rated it really liked it
Who is the betrayed, and who the betrayer? It’s clear from the outset that there’s plenty of blame to spread around in this deeply engaging novel about a Chinese mole in the CIA.

Gary (nee Weimin) Shang is a young secret agent for Mao Tse-Tung’s Communists in the culminating days of the Revolution. A graduate of prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing, sometimes referred to as China’s Harvard, he is singled out by his handlers to infiltrate an American intelligence unit in Shanghai which later
Ron Charles
Nov 25, 2014 Ron Charles rated it it was ok
Lately, we’ve been consumed with how our own government is spying on us, but, of course, there are foreign agents peering at us, too. My friends in the game say corporate espionage — stealing manufacturing and software secrets — is where the action is now, which is enough to make an old spook pine for the Cold War. Those were the days when monomaniacal leaders banged on about their superior ideologies and the fate of the earth hung on just one launch code. Whatever the wisdom of risking ...more
Apr 07, 2015 Barbara rated it really liked it
I’m a big fan of Ha Jin. To have originated in China, his English language skills are amazing. Perhaps I find all his novels interesting because I have been lucky enough to travel to China and was able to observe their culture.

History, especially political history is not my forte. So, I enjoy an easy to read historical fiction novel that allows me to learn about something that I previously possessed hazy knowledge. The Politics between the USA, China, Russia, Korea, and Taiwan between the years
Jan 26, 2015 Susan rated it liked it
I thought Ha Jin's Waiting was a work of brilliance. This book is solid but nothing approaching that level of skill, wit, and drama. The characters are excellent and interesting. The book alternates between the present (the story of Lilian's discovery about her father) and the past (her father's story). I liked both Lilian and Gary a lot but there is something missing in Lillian. She seems to merely be the person who needs to be there to tell the story. Gary is better drawn and the most ...more
Nancy Brisson
Feb 11, 2015 Nancy Brisson rated it it was amazing
It’s difficult to believe that you are reading fiction when you read A Map of Betrayal by Ha Jin. You may also entertain the preconceived notion that you find foreign books boring or dense with historical references you will not understand. You will not need to understand Chinese history to be fascinated by this story, although you may learn some things about China.

This author has classified this story as a work of fiction but my gut keeps saying that “only the names have been changed”. There is
Feb 05, 2015 Dianelw rated it it was ok
This is a novel that doesn't quite work for me as either a compelling spy story or as a fictional doorway into history, although that is the main reason to read it. It provides the author with a platform to reflect on US-China interactions during the second half of the 20th century and to present aspects of the Chinese-American experience. It's an okay read, but not a book I would recommend to friends. Themes of interest to me were: spies who may grow to want to serve two countries; patriotism ...more
Carolyn Stevens Shank
I am a great fan of Ha Jin, but I did not find his new book, A Map of Betrayal, held my interest. I finished it with a sigh of relief, rather than with the regret of having finished a truly engaging book. It is the story of a Chinese spy, Gary Shang, who gets caught out in the cold as a mole in the CIA. After years in the USA, he is torn between his love of his homeland, and that of his native China. Although he rises high (by title) in the Chinese Security hierarchy , his government misleads, ...more
Mar 30, 2016 Ioana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won the audio-book version of this in a Goodreads giveaway. Alas, I didn't realize I was signing up for an audio-book (I can't do any media format other than actual printed paper and the occasional ebook in extreme circumstances, i.e. on extended trips). Naively I hadn't caught up to the 21st century, it never crossed my mind to do this before, but now I make certain to check the format of giveaways I enter.

I tried to listen to this, but I couldn't (but that's not on the book, it's on me). Sin
Sep 24, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, vine, fiction
This book did two things very well: it offered insight into the political climate of China in the latter half of the 20th Century and a glimpse into the immigrant experience. But Gary Shang is no ordinary Chinese immigrant. Recruited as a translator by the CIA, he is sending America’s secrets back to his homeland. Despite having a family in China, a wife and child in America, and a mistress, he finds himself isolated as he protects his true identity. He manages to gain the trust of his ...more
Mar 30, 2016 Rochelle rated it it was amazing
I received this book as an ARC from Edelweiss.

Ha Jin shows his versatility in this work. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a work of fiction by a man, not the memoir of a woman tracing the life of her father. The mood and voice was utterly convincing. Gary Shang was the ultimate patriot of China. He followed blindly, naively, believing all the while that his sacrifice would be rewarded, that he would return home. No Westerner would unquestioningly sacrifice his whole life for country
A Chinese spy who leaves his life and family at home in order to work as a deep cover agent who translates for the CIA. Gary Shang who is torn between two countries. The novel oscillates back and forth between Gary's daughter who lives in the aftermath of her father's subsequent outing and imprisonment for spying against the United States of America AND Gary Shang's life of espionage and domesticity. The two story-lines are sometimes worked clumsily and I am not sure that I needed Gary Shang's ...more
Britta Böhler
Jan 08, 2016 Britta Böhler rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, favs, 2016
A wonderful reading experience!
A Map of Betrayal is the first book by Ha Jin I've read (yes, yes, I now, shame on me!) but it will certainly not be the last.

It's a story about loyalty, about a man being torn between two lives and two countries: China (his land of birth) and the US (where he has lived for most of his life, as a spy for the Chinese governement). And along the way, the reader also gets insight into China-US-politics after WWII and life in 21st century China. Although these parts ar
Mar 02, 2015 David rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Without question one of the worst book I've read. Lillian, a middle-aged Chinese-American woman discovers her father's journal and finds out he was a double agent working both for the CIA and Chinese intelligence. She also discovers he had a mistress. (How many books lately have there been about children discovering the secrets of their parents?) The chapters are set up by years her father (Gary) was a double agent, and Lillian's trip to China to discover the family Gary left behind.

Lillian does
Oct 17, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was ok
I was really looking forward to reading this book. It started out ok. Then I kept reading and was not getting intrigued as much as I had hoped. In fact, I can not remember much of what I did read up until the point that I put the book down. I thought it was just me and I was not in the right mood for this book so I walked away from it for a while. I came back to it and tried it again. Nope it was not really me. It was the book. While I did see promise in it. The book just felt stiff. It does not ...more
Jan 14, 2015 Renee rated it liked it
3.5 stars--Ha Jin is one of my favorite authors, and reading his book remind me of a pot of simmering soup-perhaps nothing popping or bubbling over but always consistently a very good story boil or in this case a very good story.

A Map of Betrayal is the story of a spy torn between two countries (China and the US)finding himself with deep allegiance for both countries and the inner conflict that what was once a simple job has become his life.

Jin's writing is clean, simple, and engaging and inste
Well-written, slow-moving novel of a Chinese spy working as a CIA translator. Told in alternating POV of Gary Shang, the spy, and his daughter, Lilian Shang, a history professor who has obtained his 6-volume diary, the story relates the agony of Gary Shang's life as he tries to reconcile his love of two countries and his responsibilities to two families.

While it was a heartbreaking story, some of it seemed told in a detached way that robbed the novel of its potential emotional impact. Still, an
Diana Bryce
Nov 01, 2015 Diana Bryce rated it it was amazing
With very spare prose Ha Jin takes the reader into the heart of Chinese villages, the CIA, the 1950's, Hong Kong, and the mind of a spy. A history lesson on Chinese, Russian and American tensions in mid-twentieth century is intertwined with the tensions in the life of a Chinese mole in the CIA. This novel gave me a much fuller understanding of both international relations and the mental, emotional and physical hardships of being a spy.
Jul 29, 2015 Elisa rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable. A Chinese immigrant becomes a successful translator for the CIA. Also a spy for China. He loses his homeland wife and family and marries an American. He tries to maintain a sense of loyalty for both countries - and is abandoned by both.
he had to laugh out loud - "er musste laut heraus lachen"
internet chat - "quasseln"
Übersetzung = top!
Morgan Sohl
Jun 30, 2015 Morgan Sohl rated it it was amazing
I got this as a goodreads giveaway. I haven't read any books by this author but this was amazing. Beautifully written and both plot lines character's were interesting and kept me involved.
Nov 08, 2016 Kip rated it liked it
Ha Jin paints a multigenerational picture of espionage with "A Map of Betrayal," a novel that unfolds as the dueling stories of Chinese spies set during the Cold War and the modern era. Jin adopts the popular narrative technique of transitioning between a third-person account of the life of Gary Shang, as told by his daughter, Lillian, through diaries that are delivered in the novel's opening pages. Meanwhile, Lillian - a professor at an American university who is still in the dark about many of ...more
Jessica Li
Nov 29, 2014 Jessica Li rated it really liked it
A Map of Betrayal has so much literary aesthetics and so many debates which provide a good thinking practice, that I was intimidated to attempt writing a review. Nevertheless, the topic and content stir up too much feeling in my overseas Chinese heart for me to give up on a try. Therefore, please be noticed that the review is raw, unpolished and somewhat messy, and the observation may be juvenile. Also, it contains a small spoiler.

The story unfolds through two narrative paths, one from the point
Aug 23, 2015 Rebecca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After a run of some really amazing reading in May through early July, I feel like I’ve been in a funk this summer. There’s definitely a part of me that’s worried that I’m spending too much time looking for the “next big thing” and not enough time reading enjoyable stories. So I’m a little cranky at the moment.

And this book didn’t help. I personally misunderstood what this book was actually about before I started reading it. I knew it was the story of Lilian Shang, an American whose father, Gary,
Oct 28, 2016 Angela rated it it was ok
This did not keep my attention. It was an easy read, but lacked any excitement. A repetitive process of Gary turning over info to China from the CIA. Nothing monumental. Just his life affected by the sadness being torn between his homeland (China) and his new home (US).
Sabina Kajtezovic
Nov 22, 2016 Sabina Kajtezovic rated it liked it
The book seems to based on life of Larry Chin, Chinese spy working in CIA 1950s-1980s. The book was interesting and fast to read. Some interesting insights into forming of the relationship between China and USA. The ending seems unfinished.
This review first appeared in The Los Angeles Times:

With a National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkners and a Pulitzer nomination under his belt, Ha Jin is one of America's most decorated living novelists. He's made a name for himself writing beautiful stories centered in China, where he was born and raised. Jin didn't start writing in English until his 30s, but he found his voice in his adopted country, in his newer tongue. Several of his books are actually ba
Apr 15, 2015 Greg rated it liked it
In A MAP OF BETRAYAL, Ha Jin has created an unusual protagonist for a spy novel. Gary Shang is a very ordinary man, who seems quite dull and obedient. He does not have any compelling motivations facility to become a spy. Instead he just coasts into it after college based his need for a job. He succeeds primarily because of excellent English language skills and an ability to communicate well with others.

But this is not a spy thriller. Instead it is an exploration of the conflict between loyalty
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Ha Jin is the pen name of Xuefei Jin, a novelist, poet, short story writer, and Professor of English at Boston University. Ha Jin writes in English about China, a political decision post-Tiananmen Square.
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