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3.52  ·  Rating details ·  19,226 ratings  ·  1,784 reviews
In Waiting, PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author Ha Jin draws on his intimate knowledge of contemporary China to create a novel of unexpected richness and feeling. This is the story of Lin Kong, a man living in two worlds, struggling with the conflicting claims of two utterly different women as he moves through the political minefields of a society designed to regulate his e ...more
Paperback, 310 pages
Published September 19th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1999)
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Average rating 3.52  · 
Rating details
 ·  19,226 ratings  ·  1,784 reviews

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Jun 13, 2008 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 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 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Devastating & beautiful, the story is nothing if not universal. The Chinese Cultural Revolution is the backdrop & when it surrounds the characters, showing off the beauty & 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 overall apocalyptic feel of doom from "Never Let Me Go." Thoroughly splendid: it is one solid, brilliant jewe ...more
Jan 05, 2010 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
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 04, 2008 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
May 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: china-japan-asia
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.

Best summed up by Book Wyrm:
"it was like trying to listen to an account of an orgy told by the world's most boring eunuch"
See his review here.
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
3.5 stars

Damn you, Lin. Damn you for making me cry over what you did to Shuyu. And yet I still worry over you, even though you're just a fictional character in a book. Do you even know what happiness is, Lin? How about what it costs and what it's NOT supposed to cost?

I wasn't expecting the ending to stab my heart the way it did. Just when you think you know where a book is heading...
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia
3.5 stars, rounded up.

I am frequently surprised by books that I think will be about one thing and turn out to be about another. This story is set in Communist China, and what I expected was a dissection of that time in history. That was an element, but this book is truly about a man, Lin Kong, who cannot make up his mind how to live his life, and as a result finds himself always waiting for his life to begin.

There is happiness and possibility all around him, but he is never able to grasp any of
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
*Thanks to "The Book Fairies" and "World of Books" for a copy*

It was such a pleasant reading! But I am not sure what to say. The ending hit me really hard..... I liked the storyline and the reflection of China at that time. I really liked how each character's story was explained individually. But most of all, I liked the writing style. Simple and heart-touching.

This book makes me wanna stop and take a moment to ask myself one question. Am I really waiting for what I think I am waiting for?

Connie G
Nov 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, fiction
"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
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-cabinet
From the start I could not put this book down. The story intrigued me and I wanted to know the story behind it all. I can not understand that the rating of this book is low. The story is entertaining and reads fast. It also shows a lot of Chinese culture and how people deal with that. The life choices we make, the waiting we do in life.. 5 points.

Oct 05, 2008 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
Sep 15, 2011 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
Aug 01, 2007 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
Dec 19, 2007 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.

Aug 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-discussion
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Veronica ⭐️
Jan 01, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
This was a bit of a strange read for me. Ha Jin has given his readers a mixture of Chinese and Western culture.

Lin Kong enters into an arranged marriage to Shuyu, a quiet country girl. As soon as she has their first child Lin goes off tp the Military Medical School in the city. Here he meets Manna Wu and strikes up a friendship. Lin is devoid of any need for physical contact so although Manna has fallen in love Lin is happy for their friendship to remain platonic, citing his marriage as his det
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 11, 2012 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
Aug 03, 2008 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
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book had been haunting me for years and now that I've finished--it still haunts me.

From the first page this book is hard to put down. Yet the writing at times feels like watching a foreign film where the drama on screen is over-acted, while the dialogue is understated. That disconnect never let me completely lose myself in the book.

But, that might just be me. (I recently finished The Sympathizer, which swept me away).

The story though and the window into China, post-revolution, is fantastic.
Jun 06, 2007 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
Jul 03, 2016 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
Apr 19, 2008 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.
David Lentz
Jun 21, 2011 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
robin friedman
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ha Jin's acclaimed novel "Waiting" is set in China during the Cultural Revolution of the late twentieth century. The three main characters are Lin Kong, a doctor in the Chinese Army, Shuyu, his wife through an arranged marriage and the product of a traditionalist upbringing (i.e. with bound feet) and Mannu Wu an educated, modern nurse that Lin plans to marry. Under military law, Lin must wait 18 years before he may secure a divorce without the consent of his wife.

The story operates on multiple l
Apr 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people waiting for their cars to be fixed
Shelves: fiction, 2012-reads, china
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
Oct 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 16, 2008 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
Imane إيمان بلال
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, unafraid to reference or not reference, put it in a blender, shit on it, vomit on it, eat it, give birth to it.
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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.

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