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3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  14,868 Ratings  ·  1,370 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 (first published 1999)
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15th out of 319 books — 844 voters
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335th out of 5,774 books — 26,085 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Petra X
Jan 18, 2016 Petra X rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 28, 2007 Zheng rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
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
Jan 28, 2013 Whitaker rated it did not like it
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
Jan 05, 2008 Ernest rated it did not like it
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
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
Jan 06, 2015 stephanie rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 04, 2016 Connie rated it really liked it
"Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu." Lin had married Shuyu, an uneducated, traditional Chinese woman in an arranged marriage when his father needed someone to take care of Lin's dying mother. But Lin had gone to school to become a doctor and was now living in an urban environment. He wanted to marry Manna, a nurse who was more sophisticated and modern. Shuyu refuses to give him a divorce, and the Communist Party rules say there has to be 18 years of marit ...more
Feb 24, 2016 Jonetta rated it liked it
The premise of the novel is that waiting is an emotion. By the end of the book, I was ready to concede the point to the author as this was one of the most exasperating stories I've ever read. I really wearied of waiting for the culmination of the story. It's well written, that's not the issue. The story just drove me insane as we waited and waited and waited for Lin to get a spine and marry the woman he claimed to love. And she just dutifully waited and waited and waited....

In all seriousness, t
Jun 06, 2016 Fabian rated it it was amazing
Devastating & beautiful, the story is nothing if not universal. The Chinese Cultural Revolution is the backdrop and when it surrounds the characters, showing off the beauty and ugliness that is that double-edged sword, it traps them in situations which have seemingly no escape. There is here the spirit of romance which books like "Like Water for Chocolate" adequately display, as well as that apocalyptic feel of doom from "Never Let Me Go." Thoroughly splendid: it's one solid and bright jewel ...more
Aug 18, 2007 Lorraine rated it really liked it
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
Aug 01, 2007 Emily rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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
Jan 27, 2008 Danimal rated it it was ok
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.

Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 11, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it liked it
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
Jul 04, 2016 Irene rated it really liked it
This is a novel of yearning, of waiting for what is just out of reach while failing to appreciate all that is good right now. Set in China in the years following the Cultural Revolution, Lin, a military doctor, spends most of the year living at a military hospital far from his wife and daughter. He soon becomes attracted to a nurse becoming dissatisfied with his old-fashioned peasant wife. For 18 years, the courts deny his application for divorce and for 18 years he steals moments with the nurse ...more
Jun 06, 2007 Rachael rated it really liked it
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
Aug 03, 2008 Lisa rated it liked it
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
Apr 19, 2008 Preeta rated it did not like it
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.
Apr 16, 2015 Efka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romanai
Nepaisant to, kad visas veiksmas vyksta tame erdvėlaikyje, apie kurį Lietuvoje menkai arba visiškai nieko nežinoma (1960-1970 komunistinė Kinija), mums, kaip patiems buvusiems sovietų sąjungos dalimi, gal nėra taip sunku ir nesuvokiama suprasti tuometines tendencijas, moralines normas ir laikmečio dvasią - užtenka tik pažiūrėti Šuriko nuotykius. Kita vertus, pilnai suprantu, kad vakarų Europoje ar JAV šita knyga tikrai galėjo sukelti "negaliu patikėti" ar panašiu kognityviniu disonansu paremtą j ...more
Apr 27, 2012 Judy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people waiting for their cars to be fixed
Shelves: fiction, china, 2012-reads
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
Jun 17, 2008 Becky rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nesa Sivagnanam
Mar 08, 2012 Nesa Sivagnanam rated it really liked it
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
David Lentz
Jun 21, 2011 David Lentz rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 24, 2008 Krys rated it it was ok
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
Nate D
Jun 14, 2010 Nate D rated it liked it
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
Jan 16, 2008 Derek rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.

Sunku nuspręsti, kaip vertinti šią knygą. Tokia lyg ir paprasta knyga, apie žmonių kasdienį gyvenimą, tokį, į kurį panašus galbūt galėtų vykti visai šalia, bet kartu ir ne paprasta knyga.

Viena vertus, įdomi buvo pati pasakojimo idėja - dviejų žmonių ilgas laukimas, kol galės būti kartu kaip vyras ir žmona, jų jausmai, mintys ir patirtys visa tai išgyvenant. O ir traukia perskaityti ir sužinoti, kuo gi visas tas laukimas baigsis. Taip pat įdomu pamatyti, koks tas mažai pažinotas kasdienis žmogau
May 26, 2010 Rose rated it it was amazing
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."
Jun 04, 2016 Shotgun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Děj knihy se odehrává v závěru kulturní revoluce v Číně. A i když není primárně politický, šílená omezení a atmosféra doby se v něm nemohla neodrazit.
Mladé lékaře Lina donutí jeho rodiče před jeho odchodem z rodné vesnice do města oženit se s dívkou, ke které nic necítí, jen proto, aby se o ně postarala, když on bude pryč.
Záhy se, ale v nemocnici, ve které pracuje seznámí s ošetřovatelkou Man-nou. Vzhledem k tomu, že je pod velkým tlakem okolí a i sám se snaží být, co nejetičtější, je jejich vzt
Shu Xiao
Jun 03, 2016 Shu Xiao rated it really liked it
Interesting thing: Ha Jin write the book in English, someone else translated the story into Chinese. Made me wonder the whole time what the language would be like if it was written by the author in his mother language. That said, both the author and the translator is very good. Also I don't agree that this book is targeted at Western readers. It's a plausible story and most of the characters are solid. Understanding the time frame is important though, the female characters in this book cannot re ...more
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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.” 10 likes
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