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A Map of Betrayal

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,578 ratings  ·  295 reviews
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 parents, she is shocked by the secrets it contains.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Pantheon (first published November 3rd 2014)
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3.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,578 ratings  ·  295 reviews

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Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arcs, fiction
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 ☔
May 12, 2014 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
Mal Warwick
Dec 11, 2014 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
Tiffany Reisz
I have no idea how to rate this book. I tore through it in two days but it literally has no plot and none of the characters find any resolution to any of their dilemmas. Fascinating story. Really well-written. Just not sure what I read. Anywho, good book. I think.
Sep 12, 2014 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
Ron Charles
Nov 07, 2014 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 humanity ...more
Apr 07, 2015 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
Feb 05, 2015 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 a ...more
Jan 26, 2015 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 interest ...more
Apr 14, 2018 rated it liked it
A Map of Betrayal, the story of Gary Shang, a Chinese spy who served as a translator for the CIA, is a slow paced account of Gary’s activities from 1949 to 1980 and his daughter’s search to discover who her father really was. Accounts of the progress of relations between China and Russia were interesting but the book moved at an uneven pace frequently getting bogged down in details such as food or clothing which didn’t serve to add to the focus of the story-the conflict Gary felt between his loy ...more
Nancy Brisson
Feb 11, 2015 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
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
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's strange. The first half of this book didn't interest me much so I took my time reading it. And although the second half is no more eventful than the first, I suddenly couldn't put it down. I suppose as the novel progresses, the characters become more complete, thus more compelling. Ha Jin interweaves a biography of Gary Shang -- a mole inside the CIA working for communist China -- with the story of his adult daughter, who is writing the biography after the fact. And he thoroughly succeeds i ...more
Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : A Map of Betrayal - Nevisande : Ha Jin - ISBN : 307911608 - ISBN13 : 9780307911605 - Dar 304 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2014
Dana Clinton
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have read a Ha Jin novel before and enjoy his writing. This nice tale was a gift from my daughter for the winter holidays, so it was even more special! It is a tale that goes back and forth between the USA and Lilian in the modern day (very recent past) and the tale of her father, a spy for China. There are all kinds of betrayal in this book, but the biggest really is how a country betrays its own citizens who have often given their literal or figurative lives for it. I also like the undercurr ...more
Feb 17, 2016 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 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, own, vine
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 governmen ...more
Aug 05, 2014 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 d ...more
Susan Emmet
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it
The spare prose of Ha Jin's novel acts as a clear revealer of the complexity of its subject: fidelity to self/family/country and its rationalization, as well as the dire antics of countries long engaged in stealing from one another.
Gary Shang's story, in his voice and that of his daughter Lilian, covers key events in world history, focusing on relations between China and the United States. After distinguished college training in China, he leaves his new family (and never sees them again although
Britta Böhler
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favs, 2016, fiction, diverse
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
Helen Chupin
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
To be honest, I was interested for most of the book (both in Gary, the Chinese spy living a new life in the US in the fifites, sixties, etc. and in his daughter Lilian's attempts to find out more about his first life (and first wife) back in China). But, the end is a total let-down as we are suddenly supposed to transfer our attention and interest to Benning (or Ben) - Lilian's nephew - but the third generation just doesn't come off the page. Maybe because he arrives too late in the story and th ...more
Mar 02, 2015 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 12, 2014 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 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
Nov 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This book has a very odd style. I learned a lot about 20th century Chinese politics. After finishing it, l ate cottage cheese for breakfast, because it is high in protein and low in carbohydrates.

I'm exaggerating a little bit, but the inclusion of meaningless detail, often but not always about food, is an ongoing thing. The dialogue can also be pretty stilted and suddenly swerve into totally out of place obscenities. All in all, an unusual reading experience.
Diana Bryce
Nov 01, 2015 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.
Steve Kreidler
Dec 15, 2017 rated it liked it
I can always tell when a book is headed to mediocrity when it takes me more than a week to get through it. I expected so much more than this slow moving, moribund novel. Jin missed a chance to move me, educate me, with the promising premise of a double agent between our nation’s frenemy, China.

Too bad, as Jin was masterful in “Waiting” which is very much worth your time.
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, asian, world
Truly wonderful though very sad. A Chinese American woman delves into the history of her father, a longtime Chinese mole in the CIA, and connects with his other family in China. What happens to a man who belongs to two countries? Can he ever avoid falling in the cracks between them?
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Ha Jin is the pen name of Jin Xuefei, 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.