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Waiting

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3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  12,603 ratings  ·  1,157 reviews
The demands of human longing contend with the weight of centuries of custom in acclaimed author Ha Jin's Waiting, a novel of unexpected richness and universal resonance. Every summer Lin Kong, a doctor in the Chinese Army, returns to his village to end his loveless marriage with the humble and touchingly loyal Shuyu. But each time Lin must return to the city to tell Manna ...more
Paperback, 310 pages
Published September 19th 2000 by Vintage Books (first published 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Petra X
This was the first Ha Jin I read. It is hard to imagine that the superb use of language is by someone who learned English, a second language.

What is so special about the writing is its very sparing use of adjectives. It reads clean and tight - each word moves the story and characters along without any padding. Because the writing is so good, the characters and situations are clearly seen and it is the reader's imagination, interpretation, that supplies the descriptions and adjectives.

The lack
...more
Zheng
As someone who grew up in China, I found the characters very real. I read many reviews about this book talking about how none of characters are likable, except for the simple peasant ex-wife of Lin's.

But I think that is what the author was trying to tell us-that the system reduced every individual's humanity and individuality to the extent no one was a complete person anymore. The only reason that the simple peasant wife Shuyu seems to be more likable is because she was more human than anyone e
...more
Ernest
The onslaught of awards and critical acclaim this book has garnered (including the biggie, The National Book Award of 1999) epitomizes the most lamentable trend in such current practices: pandering political correctness.

Despite featuring wooden dialogue spoken by boring characters I could care less about and descriptions that rival phone book listings in their vividness, Waiting DOES conform to pre-existing, fetishized Western notions of Chinese culture. Thus, delighted progressive (probably whi
...more
Whitaker
This book makes me feel dirty: like I need to scrub myself with Lysol several times over. Is there a term for a Chinese equivalent of an "Uncle Tom"? Because that's the kind of book this is. It's stuffed to bursting with Western stereotypes of Chinese people: the happily subservient, foot-bound woman; the sexually insatiable Asian beauty; the emasculated, impotent male. Ha Jin is deliberately writing a book targeted at a Western audience, designed to provide non-threatening images of China to th ...more
Erin
Jan 05, 2010 Erin added it
ok, so here's how i got rabies. true story.

i'm in thailand. thailand is pretty much awesome, i like going there a lot, as long as you stay away from touristy places like phuket and don't go to bangkok. people get sucked into bangkok and never return.

so, i'm in bangkok (of course) and it's hard not to get sucked into a place like that, you know? fifty bajillion people stacked on top of each other like sardines, zipping around on highly unsafe wheeled vehicles that would never pass california safe
...more
stephanie
i first came across this book in 2004. i have to admit that the politics alluded me, the history of communist china isnt exactly my thing, but what i got out of this book when i read it was the universality of the concept of “waiting”. when you think about it, we are all waiting…for something. we will spend our entire lives waiting for one thing or another, and each time we acquire what we were waiting for, we find something else to be waiting for. we always think that what we are waiting for is ...more
Lorraine
I enjoyed my second reading of this book by Ha Jin much more than the first. Perhaps it was timing or my still-maturing literary consciousness, but for me, the book has ripened significantly in the 7 or 8 years since my first perusal. While I cannot say that I admire the characters of Lin or Manna any more than I originally did, Shuyu stood out to me as a shining example of "blooming where you're planted". She managed to be happy, productive and capable of growth and forgiveness, in the difficul ...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 11, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Major Award Winner
What struck me was its honesty. You may downright dislike some of the characters, it’s almost impossible not too as they seem to make such ludicrous life choices. Once I turned off my inclination to judge, to shut down my mind set of always thinking like a westerner, I thoroughly enjoyed this simple, fable-like tale. Ha Jin offers poetic insight into a foreign way of life. I believe I came away from this with a little better understanding of Chinese society. Found it interesting that the author ...more
Emily
I couldn't decide if I wanted to give this book one or two stars, but ultimately decided to go with two because it kept my attention and was a fast read. That being said however, I hated almost everything about this book, particularly the main characters. There were times when I thought the strength of my burning hatred for the main character would be enough to ignite the book into flames. But if you like books about weak, self absorbed, indecisive, and passionless characters who are not even re ...more
Lisa
I enjoyed many things about this book: its clear, simple language; its deceptive simplicity (it's got the rhythm of a folk tale or fable but is layered with meaning and feeling); its quiet, deliberate pace; the rich detail, particularly in descriptions of natural settings which shine with poetry.

I have some complaints as well. The dialogue is often stilted and strange ("bye-bye now") or peppered with odd phrases that distract ("by hook or by crook," "shilly shallying," "tut tut"). Also, though t
...more
Rachael
Good winter read. Walks you through the emotional details of a man's life as he struggles with choosing between his life in the rural Chinese countryside and his work at a military base in a large city. He spends 11 years agonizing over whether to leave his simple wife and child behind for a more modern life with a military nurse. Ha Jin is a master at making you feel the magnitude of the decision by building sympathy with each character. At the same time, his detailed account of everyday life m ...more
Danimal
Jan 27, 2008 Danimal rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who have insomnia
I am not sure why this book won anything - a relay race, a pie-eating contest, let alone a National Book Award. It's got a good theme to it - how the communist Chinese government's totalitarian ways caused great unhappiness - but the writing was so dull that I couldn't deal. I was just Waiting for it to end. It went something like this:

"I had only 12 more years before I could divorce my wife and marry Manna."

A bird flew by the window. A leaf fell from a tree. The clouds were grey.


Snore.
Preeta
Apr 19, 2008 Preeta rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: hedgehogs, sloths, slow lorises
This book did make me feel like I was waiting, so maybe it did what it set out to do. But it wasn't a good kind of waiting. It was the kind of waiting I used to do when I would have to go to some government office with my parents and they would make me sit still and behave myself, and I would feel a terrible physical ache in unmentionable parts of my body from having to contain so much desire to fidget. Actually, that sounds a lot more exciting than this book was.
Judy
Apr 27, 2012 Judy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people waiting for their cars to be fixed
Shelves: 2012-reads, china, fiction
Ha Jin's Waitingcouldn't have been more aptly titled. You see, I picked it up while waiting for what we thought would be a quick fix of our car. (Boy! I couldn't have been more grateful that we stopped at the bookstore first.) While waiting, I knocked out about a 100 pages which turned out to be a good thing because I don't think I would have finished the book if I hadn't gotten so far into it. You see, its not a story with a whole lot of action, plot, and I never felt any emotional attachment t ...more
David Lentz
This book offers a fresh, rare look at life deep inside Communist China. There are no formulas for the plot: it's original and the self-effacing perspective of the narrator intrigued me. Waiting is a book without ego. At first the narrative style seemed to read like a translation. But I realized that the author's technique was really an extension of the cultural distinctions about which he described in the novel. He made the culture of Mao inside China come alive for me. The characters were roun ...more
Krys
What Waiting reveals about chinese culture and the effects of the Cultural Revolution on (recently) contemporary China is fascinating. And to be sure, this book is steeped in such information from the mind-boggling ways in which politics enter into the most non-political facets of everyday life to details of cuisine that westerners would never guess were edible (jellyfish!!!). For this alone, the book is worth a read.

But sadly, the protagonist is not only unsympathetic, he he boring; so frustrat
...more
Becky
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Derek
I so wanted to like this book. It won some awards and I had heard good things about it. But I found that I had no interest in the characters and really hated the time that I spent with them. I was happy for the book to end. I think that it was the author's intent for me to be frustrated with the characters and the title "Waiting" seemed to refer to the lives of these people, who could just never act or do the thing that they thought would make them happy. But the more I read, the more I felt lik ...more
Nate D
Jun 14, 2010 Nate D rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People interested in life in communist China
Recommended to Nate D by: Mom
Shelves: read-in-2010, china
Reading this story of lives left in limbo by the repressive social circumstances of Cultural Revolution China, I began to get that sensation of frustration that I normally feel when I sense my emotions being manipulated for melodramatic effect. Except that I don't think that this book was especially manipulative; rather it's a quiet, likely truthful account. Still, I kept wanting to yell at the characters to break out of their stifling society, even though I know that this would realistically ne ...more
alan smith
the main thing which sticks out to me about this book (apart from the culture shock-ness of 70s China, sounding more like the turn of the 20th century until we are given some dates and clues further on in the novel) is that nobody is perfect.

in fact, hardly any of the characters are likeable - not that you find yourself disliking them too much either. Lin, the main character, is very weak willed and lives a dispassionate life - however, he goes through a lot with respect to his different partner
...more
Nesa Sivagnanam
Everyone is waiting for something or someone in Waiting.

Lin Kong is waiting to divorce his wife.
Manna Wu is waiting for Lin Kong to divorce his wife and marry her.
Shuyu is waiting for the time when Lin Kong will succeed in divorcing her.
Hua is waiting for her father to decide if he will divorce her mother.

Waiting is an oddly austere love story where the demands of human longing contend with the weight of centuries of custom. Lin is a doctor in the Chinese Army. He's a quiet, peaceful, bookish ma
...more
Rose
National Book Award Winner

Favorite quote:
"Let me tell you what really happened, the voice said. All those years you waited torpidly, like a sleepwalker, pulled and pushed about by others' opinions, by external pressure, by your illusions, by the official rules you internalized. You were misled by your own frustration and passivity, believing that what you were not allowed to have was what your heart was destined to embrace."
Cecily
Wooden writing (I can 't blame the translation, as it was written in English) and shallow characters, but an interesting story that could only be set in mid/late 20th century China: about discipline, longing coupled with detachment, lost opportunities and more.

Carl Brush
Back in the day--way back, say twelfth century back. Before the invention of the novel--poets in the courtly love tradition liked to compete over who could put their lovers in more difficult circumstances and draw out an affair. In one example, there was a wealthy landowner whose daughter was allowed to appear in public only at Sunday mass, and thiat under heavy chaperonage. At the communion rail, her lover sighed, "Alas." The next week the maiden asked "For What?" The next week he answered "For ...more
Aban (Aby)
My thanks to Alexis for recommending this book. It's the story of Lin, an army doctor, living on a military base somewhere in China. He has lived for many years away from his wife and daughter who farm in the country. Lin has been in love with Manna, an army nurse, for seventeen years. During that time he has repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, tried to obtain a divorce from Shuyu, his gentle peasant wife, so that he can marry Manna.

There is very little action in the book. All the action takes place
...more
Caroline
China's cultural revolutionary years took their toll not only on the country's industrial and economic development, but also the her people's lives. Hunger and famine struck, and many families were separated with members being assigned to rural farms to work. Ha Jin's beautifully written novel takes place during this era in China's history.

Lin, a doctor in the People's Liberation Army lives his life according to what he believes to be his duty. He goes through an arranged marriage to a woman in
...more
Sheri
I have been waiting for this book for awhile and have seen it on many lists (including National Book Award winners) and in airports recently. However, it was not really worth the wait. I was anticipating a well crafted and beautifully written love story. Instead, it is just a trite commentary on the adage, "be careful what you wish for".

I found it very stiff and stilted; maybe it is because I do not have much experience with Chinese culture, but I really was amazed at how overt and simplistic so
...more
Simon Ph.D.
Man marries a woman out of respect for his parents. Later, man meets another woman and gets a crush on her. They both wait for 18 years (without consummating their relationship) so that man can get a divorce from wife. Once the divorce is finalized, man marries woman, gets her pregnant and eventually discovers that he was better of with wife # 1.

When I picked "Watining" by Ha Jin, I was under the impression that the National Book Award committee did its homework by reading the story (not the bo
...more
Tess K.
Ha Jin creates immediate tension in the opening line of the novel: “Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu” (3). The book depicts a city doctor during China’s cultural revolution, Lin Kong, in his tireless attempts to divorce his country wife in court. Reading the scenes the first time through I could only hope to see Lin Kong finally get a divorce and be with his true love, Manna Wu; on second reading of the book, and in afterthought, however, I’ve become awa ...more
Anand Gopal
A beautiful, devastating book. One of the best novels I've read in years.

The only downside is that the book is written for a Western audience, which brings to mind the distinction n+1 magazine once pointed out between "World Literature" and "internationalist literature"--the former being, among other things, middlebrow, produced in English, and primarily for elite Western literary consumption. Because the author is speaking to Westerners, the book appears to verge into stereotypes, and I'm not
...more
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What about this book makes it worthy of the National Book Award? 4 58 Mar 20, 2014 07:06AM  
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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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“You strive to have a good heart. But what is a heart? Just a chunk of flesh that a dog can eat.” 7 likes
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