It is post revolutionary China, and Lin Kong is a doctor in the Chinese Army. Years earlier his parents arranged a marriage for him to peasant woman Shuyu. While she has remained on their farm to raise their daughter and plant and then harvest the crop, Lin is not happy with his marriage. He has met a Manna Wu, a nurse at the hospital, and wants to divorce Shuyu.
This book had no wild chase scenes, no dramatic outbursts, yet somehow it managed to keep me finding errands to run so that I could get back in my car and turn on my ipod and listen in on a few more minutes of the story. I kept hoping that Lin would make some dramatic action toward ending his marriage, or that Manna Wu would give him an ultimatum, but it didn't happen. I didn't find this disappointing as much as I found it totally in keeping with their characters. I didn't want a doctor and a nurse who could take such spontaneous actions. By nature they both should be much more methodical and process driven.
I found myself rooting for Shuyu. She was the backbone of the whole tale. She kept the farm going, cared for her ailing in-laws and daughter, and provided the family stability the Lin needed for his reputation with the Army.
I don't think that I would want to know Lin Kong. He never gave a chance to his marriage, didn't try to make it work. Right from the start he was embarrassed by his wife's bound feet and didn't want it to affect his career. He used Manna as an excuse to keep from dealing with his failure as a husband.
The final chapters in the this book brought the story round circle. I can imagine that after Manna passes away, Lin will turn to the only person he can count on to help raise his sons. He will return to Shuyu who will care for them as though they were her own.
End of Spoiler Alert
I borrowed this Brilliance Audiobook from my library. It was read by Dick Hill. Mr. Hill has a steady, clear voice that was quite in keeping with the feeling of this story.
Ha Jin is the pen name of Xuefei Jin, professor at Boston University.
Waiting won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1999
The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2000
Cover photo from Brilliance Audio, Brilliance Audio also has a blog titled: AudioBookStand.
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