Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Synopsis: [from back cover]
The demands of human longing contend with the weight of centuries of custom in acclaimed author Ha Jin's Waiting, a novel of unexpected richness and universal resonance. Every summer Lin Kong, a doctor in the Chinese Army, returns to his village to end his loveless arranged marriage with the humble and touchingly loyal Shuyu. But each time Lin must return to the city to tell Manna Wu, the educated, modern nurse he loves, that they will have to postpone their engagement once again. Caught between the conflicting claims of these two utterly different women and trapped by a culture in which adultery can ruin lives and careers, Lin has been waiting for eighteen years. This year, he promises, will be different.
I find it really tough to put this book into words. I both liked and disliked the book. I feel it is definitely an acquired taste and something I wasn't entirely prepared for.
Waiting tells the story of Lin Kong, a young and ambitious doctor in the Chinese Army that works at a Hospital in Muji City. Through an arranged marriage he has found that his tradional wife, Shuyu, is a very loyal and accepting woman but he doesn't love her. Every year on his annual journey to his home village he asks his wife for a divorce. She initially agrees but always changes her mind in court. Without the divorce Lin cannot marry Manna Wu, a very modern nurse that works with him at the hospital. The two have been in love for a long time and are under very strict moral regulations from the Communist society that prohibit the two from having anything but a comradeship until Lin gets divorced. This is where the couple is forced into the 18 year holding pattern that just might not be what the couple really wanted.
Waiting isn't the love story I thought it would be. It's more about life, human relationships, and the cultural diversity that was and is China. Emotions hardly thrive in the book for the characters and the story is told in more stripped down language and direct details as the author leaves interpretation to the reader. Ha Jin doesn't really try to explain anything, he merely tells the story of existence within Communist China and the effects it had on Lin, Manna Wu, and their relationship. I found that in the allegorical sense Lin was making some tough decisions. He obviously wanted to put the traditional China (Shuyu) behind him and embrace the new Communist China (Manna Wu) with open arms. But as the journey commenced and the waiting for the "new" began, Lin starts to question why he wanted Manna Wu in the first place and if he ever truly loved her. With no fulfillment or end in sight, Lin wonders whether he is even capable of truly loving anyone and finds himself becoming nostalgic for Shuyu and the more traditional China he grew up in.
I'm more of an emotional driven reader, and the lack of said emotions really got to me at first. But as I delved deeper into the story I found myself becoming attached to the characters even though they were hardly lovable. This is definitely the most honest book I've read in a while that mirrors real life brilliantly. Like I said earlier, I don't think everyone will enjoy the book but I say give it a chance and you might be surprised.