3.7 39
by Ha Jin

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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 every move and stifle the promptings of his innermost heart.. "For more than seventeen years this devoted and ambitious doctor has been in love with an…  See more details below


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 every move and stifle the promptings of his innermost heart.. "For more than seventeen years this devoted and ambitious doctor has been in love with an educated, clever, modern woman, Manna Wu. But back in the traditional world of his home village lives the wife his family chose for him when he was young - a humble and touchingly loyal woman, whom he visits in order to ask, again and again, for a divorce. In a culture in which the ancient ties of tradition and family still hold sway and where adultery discovered by the Party can ruin lives forever, Lin's passionate love is stretched ever more taut by the passing years. Every summer, his compliant wife agrees to a divorce but then backs out. This time, Lin promises, will be different.. "Tracing these lives through their summer of decision and beyond, Ha Jin vividly conjures the texture of daily life in a place where the demands of human longing must contend with the weight of centuries of custom.

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Editorial Reviews

Winner of the 1999 National Book Award, Waiting is the poignant 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 every move and stifle the promptings of his innermost heart. With Waiting, Ha Jin established himself as a major new voice on the international scene.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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5.69(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.99(d)

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From then on, though she didn't reproach him again, she resisted his advances resolutely, her sense of virtue and honor preventing her from succumbing to his desire. Her resistance kindled his passion. Soon he told her that he couldn't help thinking of her all the time, as though she had become his shadow. Sometimes at night, he would walk alone in the compound of the Sub-Command headquarters for hours, with his 1951 pistol stuck in his belt. Heaven knew how he missed her and how many nights he remained awake tossing and turning while thinking about her. Out of desperation, he proposed to her two months before her graduation. He wanted to marry her without delay.

She thought he must have lost his mind, though by now she also couldn't help thinking of him for an hour or two every night. Her head ached in the morning, her grades were suffering, and she was often angry with herself. She would lose her temper with others for no apparent reason. When nobody was around, tears often came to her eyes. For all their love, an immediate marriage would be impracticable, out of the question. She was uncertain where she would be sent when she graduated, probably to a remote army unit, which could be anywhere in Manchuria or Inner Mongolia. Besides, a marriage at this moment would suggest that she was having a love affair; this would invite punishment, the lightest of which the school would administer was to keep the couple as separate as possible. In recent years the leaders had assigned some lovers to different places deliberately.

She revealed Mai Dong's proposal to nobody except her teacher Lin Kong, who was known as a good-hearted married man and was regarded by many students asa kind of elder brother. In such a situation she needed an objective opinion. Lin agreed that a marriage at this moment was unwise, and that they had better wait a while until her graduation and then decide what to do. He promised he would let nobody know of the relationship. In addition, he said he would try to help her in the job assignment if he was involved in making the decision.

She reasoned Mai Dong out of the idea of an immediate marriage and assured him that she would become his wife sooner or later. As graduation approached, they both grew restless, hoping she would remain in Muji City. He was depressed, and his despondency made her love him more.

At the graduation she was assigned to stay in the hospital and work in its Medical Department as a nurse -- a junior officer of the twenty-fourth rank. The good news, however, didn't please Mai Dong and Manna for long, because a week later he was informed that his radio station was going to be transferred to a newly formed regiment in Fuyuan County, almost eighty miles northeast of Muji and very close to the Russian border.

"Don't panic," she told him. "Work and study hard on the front. I'll wait for you."

Though also heartbroken, she felt he was a rather pathetic man. She wished he were stronger, a man she could rely on in times of adversity, because life always had unexpected misfortunes.

"When will we get married?" he asked.

"Soon, I promise."

Despite saying that, she was unsure whether he would be able to come back to Muji. She preferred to wait a while.

The nearer the time for departure drew, the more embittered Mai Dong became. A few times he mentioned he would rather be demobilized and return to Shanghai, but she dissuaded him from considering that. A discharge might send him to a place far away, such as an oil field or a construction corps building railroads in the interior of China. It was better for them to stay as close as possible.

When she saw him off at the front entrance of the Sub-Command headquarters, she had to keep blowing on her fingers, having forgotten to bring along her mittens. She wouldn't take the fur gloves he offered her; she said he would need them more. He stood at the back door of the radio van, whose green body had turned gray with encrusted ice and snow. The radio antenna atop the van was tilting in the wind, which, with a shrill whistle, again and again tried to snatch it up and bear it off. More snow was falling, and the air was piercingly cold. Mai Dong's breath hung around his face as he shouted orders to his soldiers in the van, who gathered at the window, eager to see what Manna looked like. Outside the van, a man loaded into a side trunk some large wooden blocks needed for climbing the slippery mountain roads. The driver kicked the rear wheels to see whether the tire chains were securely fastened. His fur hat was completely white, a nest of snowflakes.

As the van drew away, Mai Dong waved good-bye to Manna, his hand stretching through the back window, as though struggling to pull her along. He wanted to cry, "Wait for me, Manna!" but he dared not get that out in the presence of his men. Seeing his face contort with pain, Manna's eyes blurred with tears. She bit her lips so as not to cry.

Winter in Muji was long. Snow wouldn't disappear until early May. In mid-April when the Songhua River began to break up, people would gather at the bank watching the large blocks of ice cracking and drifting in the blackish-green water. Teenage boys, baskets in hand, would tread and hop on the floating ice, picking up pike, whitefish, carp, baby sturgeon, and catfish killed by the ice blocks that had been washed down by spring torrents. Steamboats, still in the docks, blew their horns time and again. When the main channel was finally clear of ice, they crept out, sailing slowly up and down the river and saluting the spectators with long blasts. Children would hail and wave at them.

Then spring descended all of a sudden. Aspen catkins flew in the air, so thick that when walking on the streets you could breathe them in and you would flick your hand to keep them away from your face. The scent of lilac blooms was pungent and intoxicating. Yet old people still wrapped themselves in fur or cotton-padded clothes. The dark earth, vast and loamy, marked by tufts of yellow grass here and there, began emitting a warm vapor that flickered like purple smoke in the sunshine. All at once apricot and peach trees broke into blossoms, which grew puffy as bees kept touching them. Within two weeks the summer started. Spring was so short here that people would say Muji had only three seasons.

In her letters to Mai Dong, Manna described these seasonal changes as though he had never lived in the city. As always, he complained in his letters about life at the front. Many soldiers there suffered from night blindness because they hadn't eaten enough vegetables. They all had lice in their underclothes since they couldn't take baths in their barracks. For the whole winter and spring he had seen only two movies. He had lost fourteen pounds, he was like a skeleton now. To comfort him, each month Manna mailed him a small bag of peanut brittle.

One evening in June, Manna and two other nurses were about to set out for the volleyball court behind the medical building. Benping, the soldier in charge of mail and newspapers, came and handed her a letter. Seeing it was from Mai Dong, her teammates teased her, saying, "Aha, a love letter."

She opened the envelope and was shocked while reading through the two pages. Mai Dong told her that he couldn't stand the life on the border any longer and had applied for a discharge, which had been granted. He was going back to Shanghai, where the weather was milder and the food better. More heartrending, he had decided to marry his cousin, who was a salesgirl at a department store in Shanghai. Without such a marriage, he wouldn't be able to obtain a residence card, which was absolutely necessary for him to live and find employment in the metropolis. In reality he and the girl had been engaged even before he had applied for his discharge; otherwise he wouldn't have been allowed to go to Shanghai, since he was not from the city proper but from one of its suburban counties. He was sorry for Manna and asked her to hate and forget him.

Her initial response was long silence.

"Are you okay?" Nurse Shen asked.

Manna nodded and said nothing. Then the three of them set out for the game.
On the volleyball court Manna, usually an indifferent player, struck the ball with such ferocity that for the first time her comrades shouted "Bravo" for her. Her face was smeared with sweat and tears. As she dove to save a ball, she fell flat on the graveled court and scraped her right elbow. The spectators applauded the diving save while she slowly picked herself up and found blood oozing from her skin.

During the break her teammates told her to go to the clinic and have the injury dressed, so she left, planning to return for the second game. But on her way, she changed her mind and ran back to the dormitory. She merely washed her elbow with cold water and didn't bandage it.

Once alone in the bedroom, she read the letter again and tears gushed from her eyes. She flung the pages down on the desk and fell on her bed, sobbing, twisting, and biting the pillowcase. A mosquito buzzed above her head, then settled on her neck, but she
didn't bother to slap it. She felt as if her heart had been pierced.

When her three roommates came back at nine, she was still in tears. They picked up the letter and glanced through it; together they tried to console her by condemning the heartless man. But their words made her sob harder and even convulsively. That night she didn't wash her face or brush her teeth. She slept with her clothes on, waking now and then and weeping quietly while her roommates wheezed or smacked their lips or murmured something in their sleep. She simply couldn't stop her tears.

She was ill for a few weeks. She felt aged, in deep lassitude and numb despair, and regretted not marrying Mai Dong before he left for the front. Her limbs were weary, as though separated from herself. Despite her comrades' protests, she dropped out of the volleyball team, saying she was too sick to play. She spent more time alone, as though all at once she belonged to an older generation; she cared less about her looks and clothes.

By now she was almost twenty-six, on the verge of becoming an old maid, whose standard age was twenty-seven to most people's minds. The hospital had three old maids; Manna seemed destined to join them.

She wasn't very attractive, but she was slim and tall and looked natural; besides, she had a pleasant voice. In normal circumstances she wouldn't have had difficulty in finding a boyfriend, but the hospital always kept over a hundred women nurses, most of whom were around twenty, healthy and normal, so young officers could easily find girlfriends among them. As a result, few men were interested in Manna. Only an enlisted soldier paid her some attentions. He was a cook, a squat man from Szechwan Province, and he would dole out to her a larger portion of a dish when she bought her meal. But she did not want an enlisted soldier as a boyfriend, which would have violated the rule that only officers could have a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Besides, that man looked awful -- owlish and cunning. So she avoided standing in any line leading to his window.

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Waiting 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
sarafenix More than 1 year ago
When I read this it was one of the books that had the most impact on me. With its subtly, it sneaks up on you with its strong depiction of human relationships and desires.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing piece of fiction about a 'bitter love.' Having read other reviews, I would have to say that I did not interpret the ending in such a hopeful manner, but I guess it all depend on your perspective. The characters are all very well developed, especially Lin, whose desire to do the right thing often leads to many unfortunate outcomes. Truly a beautiful story.
tamesthetic More than 1 year ago
This is a really great story about what the passage of time can do to things. How it erodes and eats away at the value of things and relationships and emotions etc. Yet conversely, there was no waiting when reading this book. For sure it was a story told by a man because there was no time spent lingering too long on anything. It was perfectly paced. He just kept it moving and while you were reading you would know that something else was about to happen soon because the pace was predictable and that made it a great page turner too. The feminine voice of his female character was not ruined by the manly pace of the book. The setting is a Chinese military hospital. It's about a relationship between a couple who never consummate the affair because they wanted to wait to get a problem out of the way. but as the problem persisted, and the waiting went on and on, the waiting ate away at their deepest emotions and time threw everything including the bathtub and kitchen sink, causing them to question both their character and those deep feelings they once thought they held. This book is a great piece of literature and is perfect for a book club.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I had a personal connections with this book. Divorce is a hard thing to deal with this book opened my mind and made me realize that waiting can be a bad thing and good in ways. People going though a divorce would enjoy this book and it might help them though by putting things into propective. Making you realize that people go though things that mske you stronger or weaker. You decide how events effect your life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is great!! I enjoyed the fact that it was a love story. The end is the best part of the book. The ending isn't predictable, but more hopeful for some. I read this book for a class and because I liked it so much, I finished this book in 4 days. I recommend this book to any female!! Anyone who has been through a divorce would enjoy this book as well. Great book for many different kinds of people. The title tells so much about this book and if you have ever waited for someone for any reason, you will love it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Oh, I loved this book. I couldn't put the book down. I felt I was in this story. The characters were amazing. I felt bad for Lin's wife Shuyu. Waiting is hard to do. The outcome was not what I had expected, but it was sweet. Lin did try to do the best for his family as well as his new family. All the characters suffer pain with what Lin put them through. This book was really amazing. This would be a book I would read again. This book kept you going. It's suspense. A great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
felicialovesbooks More than 1 year ago
Vintage seems like a boring book at first but as you continue to read it sucks you in. We can relate the characters to people we know in our lives and that's what I think makes this book a good read. It is easier to read something when we can relate the characters to ourselves. By the end of the book Lin realizes that the grass was not greener on the other side. I am glad that my Comp tracher recommended this book because otherwise I would have never read this piece. I am looking forward to reading more by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really stuck a chord with me. Extremely depressing in my opinion. Plays into a big fear of many people of not finding true love or showing a life of distrust and sadness. Really made me feel sad. An excellent book!
tammy_loves_joy More than 1 year ago
Consistently brilliant.
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Spoony More than 1 year ago
Outstanding. This book reminds me why I read: not only for aesthetic enjoyment, but for enlightenment. This book perfectly illustrates how time can change our perspectives on our circumstances (the grass is always greener). I loved the depth of the characters, who were so very balanced. They were obsessed with social propriety without being haughty, self-serving without being conceited, distant without being unloving, ordinary without being mundane. Yet for all the contradiction, the characters are never unbelievable, the plot never muddled. A truly amazing book, recommended for mature adults (a little life experience goes a long way toward appreciating the message here).
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Waiting by Ha Jin was a pretty interesting book to read. I liked how the main character had to struggle with many decisions that would effect other people in his life. The story always kept you wanting to continue reading to find out what would happen next. The only thing that I felt I had a little trouble with was pronouncing names of the characters and cities in the story. I would strongly recommand people read this novel because what happens in the story happens to people in real life and it could make you have different opinions and views about certain subjects.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well this book was a very sad romantic story that had to do with these two character who life was quite the same in some standard's because one character was lonely and needed someone, which she found someone but he was already married. He was a character who wanted to divorce his wife because he didn't love her, but had concieved a baby with her wanted to fall in love with the woman he felt was more compatiable with him. He went through tribes and tribulation to try to be with this other woman, but it seem that everything was stopping them from getting married, but he was going to keep trying to he got his wish even if it took years to do it. When he did finally get to divorce his wife and marry the other woman he felt in his heart after a while that he made a big mistake, but he still stayed in the marriage and it turned out to be a good ending, but a sad one. Other's should read this book if they like romance books that might have a mystery to it in some cases, but if they don't like simple sequenced books then they shouldn't read this particular book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderfully written book. For those who are seeking an intriguing thrill from a novel, you'd be disappointed. The beauty of this book is its simple style, which depicts in such accuracy details in these people's life. It's a love story, yet the main characters do not seem to know how to express love. The best part of the book is Part III. Isn't it a tragic irony that after all these years of waiting, Lin had to reveal to his ex-wife that he really longed to her, or at least an illusion of peace of mind that is associated with her? I was in tears when I read the part that he asked Shuyu to wait for him. What a mess, yet how real! I enjoyed reading it and still enjoy thinking about it. The only part that is disturbing is about Ge Yang. I was angry with the author when I read about the rape. This is a book that makes you think about it over and over again.