I just finished reading Waiting by Ha Jin yesterday night. I read it in about two days and didn’t even realize that’s how fast I got through it until I checked my planner to see when I started it.
(I mark down when I start and finish books in my planner so I keep track of what I’ve already read and if I liked it or not. It comes in handy when I do my yearly round up.)
I started reading it thinking it was another novel about communist China during the Cultural Revolution but that served as more of a back drop to the story. Because this book took place over a twenty year period it was interesting to see how China evolved and the characters’ interactions were quite stilted because of all the rules that were set by the country during this time.
To sum up this story in a nutshell: Lin Kong is a doctor in the army and he has a wife in the countryside that his parents picked out for him but he doesn’t love her. He works in the city and there he meets Manna Wu, a nurse who he loves and then spends 18 years trying to divorce his wife for her.
The story is in three parts, how Lin and Manna met, their relationship that they develop in the city while he tries to divorce his wife, and the aftermath when he and Manna can finally marry.
This is my first book by Ha Jin so I’m not sure if this is his style for his other novels but his writing style has been compared to Hemingway’s. It’s very spare and tight and he describes scenery and nature in his stories a lot more than his characters. This can be off putting for some people but to me it just emphasized how drab some of the characters are.
This novel is really different from others because it felt more understated. Most novels you know are aware of the build up and when the climax happens but with this book you read on waiting and waiting for something to happen and then you get to the end and it finally hits you, all the things that happened.
It’s like you thinking that your life is boring but if you keep a journal and you look back on it you realize all of the things you did and felt. The story and the way it was told really brings to life the pain of waiting.
I really loved the ending, it wrapped things up for me nicely and I felt it was fitting for Lin Kong’s character, who I dislike immensely by the way. He’s such a weak willed, man child. Shuyu and Manna could have done way, way, way better.
If anyone has read it let me know your thoughts!