Jin’s quiet but absorbing second novel (after In the Pond) captures the poignant dilemma of an ordinary man who misses the best opportunities in his life simply by trying to do his duty-as defined first by his traditional Chinese parents and later by the Communist Party. Reflecting the changes in Chinese communism from the ’60s to the ’80s, the novel focuses on Lin Kong, a military doctor who agrees, as his mother is dying, to an arranged marriage. His bride, Shuyu, turns out to be a country woman who looks far older than her 26 years and who has, to Lin’s great embarrassment, lotus (bound) feet. While Shuyu remains at Lin’s family home in Goose Village, nursing first his mother and then his ailing father, and bearing Lin a daughter, Lin lives far away in an army hospital compound, visiting only once a year. Caught in a loveless marriage, Lin is attacted to a nurse, Manna Wu, an attachment forbidden by communist strictures. According to local Party rules, Lin cannot divorce his wife without her permission until they have been separated for 18 years. Although Jin infuses movement and some suspense into Lin’s and Manna’s sometimes resigned, sometimes impatient waiting-they will not consummate their relationship until Lin is free-it is only in the novel’s third section, when Lin finally secures a divorce, that the story gathers real force. Though inaction is a risky subject and the thoughts of a cautious man make for a rather deliberate prose style (the first two sections describe the moments the characters choose not to act), the final chapters are moving and deeply ironic, proving again that this poet and award-winning short story writer can deliver powerful long fiction about a world alien to most Western readers. (Oct.) FYI: Jin served six years in the People’s Liberation Army, and came to the U.S. in 1985. Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Average: 4 (2 votes)


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Useful for excerpts, but inappropriate for the classroom

Field of Interest/Specialty: Sociology
Posted On: 05/20/2018

I agree that excerpts of this could be used to teach culture. However, there is one description of a rape that would not be appropriate for a high school classroom. As a high school sociology teacher, I enjoyed and appreciated the detailed descriptions of the small farm, and apartments where the characters resided. I will certainly read these descriptions to my classroom when discussing material culture in sociology. Reading the descriptions of the fire beneath bricks that make up a bed and reading how the farms produced meat and vegetables from such a small area gives much insight into the Chinese lifestyle of time period.
This story is also a poignant love story. As a reader, you feel sorry for Lin, who longs to be with his mistress, then you feel for Shuyu who agrees to divorce each year then reneges when standing in front of the divorce court. Later, as the triangle love story carries on, you feel for Mannu Wu as this story takes a twist. Though there were some slow parts, it kept my interest because I enjoyed reading about a way of life very different from my own.

Waiting...a tale of patience and sadness

Field of Interest/Specialty: English
Posted On: 05/12/2011

A well written and intriguing story of a man and a woman in love, but unable to be together because of cultural restrictions, Waiting is a novel for a mature audience.
Lin Kong is a doctor in the Chinese Army who falls in love with a nurse, Manna, but he is married to a woman, Shuyu, from his local village. The two have a child together and every summer Lin returns home to attempt to divorce her. The story is the struggle between Lin's duty as an honorable husband and a man stuck in a loveless marriage in love with another woman. Eventually, after 18 years, the divorce happens, but certain twists come into play. Shuyu moves closer to Lin with their daughter, who is now working at the hospital, Manna becomes irritable after all of the waiting, and where Lin thought there was nothing, something materializes.
The novel, while excellently written, drags in areas and leaves the reader wanting something more. The ending was not one that would be expected, but was poignant nonetheless. Use in high school classrooms would be appropriate to teach not only about some of the history of China (Chairman Mao's power over the population), but also to teach some of the customs and traditions found in the culture. If focusing on the country as a whole, using well-chosen excerpts would be more appropriate to briefly highlight the ideas and the history as seen through the eyes of an author who is no longer welcome in his own country.
As a teacher at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, PA, I would use this in my World Literature course. That course is offered for only seniors and I would expect that they would be able to handle the mature subject matters and scenes.
Mature scenes are limited and tastefully written.