There's a political allegory here, of course, but it grows naturally from these characters' hearts. Neither Lin nor Manna are especially ideological and the tumultuous events occurring around them go mostly unnoticed. They meet during a forced military march and have their first tender moment during an opera about a naval battle (While the audience shouts, "Down with Japanese Imperialism!" the couple holds hands and gaze dreamily into each other's eyes). When Lin is in Goose Village one summer, a mutual acquaintance rapes Manna; years later, the rapist appears on a TV report titled "To Get Rich is Glorious" after having made thousands in construction. Jin resists hammering ideological ironies like these home, but totalitarianism's effects on Lin are clear:
Let me tell you what really happened, the voice said. All those years you waited torpidly, like a sleepwalker, pulled and pushed about by others' opinions, by external pressure, by your illusions, by the official rules you internalized. You were misled by your own frustration and passivity, believing that what you were not allowed to have was what your heart was destined to embrace.
Ha Jin himself served in the People's Liberation Army, and in fact left his native country for the US only in 1985. That a non-native speaker can produce English of such translucence and power is truly remarkable--but really, his prose is the least of the miracles here. Improbably, Jin makes an unconsummated 18-year love affair loom as urgent as political terror or war, while history-changing events gain the immediacy of a domestic dilemma. Gracefully phrased, impeccably paced, Waiting is the kind of realist novel you thought was no longer being written. --Mary Park
Dreamy and beautifully written... Reading it will take you into a different world altogether (Marie Claire )
A deliciously comic novel (The Times )
Imagine if Romeo and Juliet had been made to stretch out their passion for 18 years, without consummating their love. Now imagine them in China during the crazy bureaucracy of Mao's Cultural Revolution, unable to talk in private let alone kiss...the insights into Chinese culture and the complexities of human longing are beautiful and compelling (Daily Mail )
A classic folktale...an extraordinary novel (Independent )