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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 dutyÄas 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 waitingÄthey will not consummate their relationship until Lin is freeÄit 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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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The winner of numerous awards for his short fiction and poetry, Emory English professor Ha Jin offers his first full-length novel. It tells the story of Lin Kong, an officer and doctor living in China during the mid-1960s. The novel spans 20 years and takes readers on Kong's life journey. In the beginning, Kong follows the wishes of his parents, entering into a loveless arranged marriage and producing a daughter. Living separately from his family for the duration of his marriage, Kong falls in love with Manna Wu, a nursing student in the hospital where he works. For 18 years they remain friends but not lovers until Kong is able to secure a divorce from his wife. The author, a native of China, cleverly draws from his personal life in a Communist society to create a realistic story. Like fellow Chinese authors Pu Ning and Hong Ying, he illusrates the difficulties that one faces when living in an oppressed society. This touching story about love, honor, duty, and family speaks feelingly to readers on matters of the heart. A nice addition to most larger library fiction and Asian literature collections.ÄShirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.