Review: Waiting by Ha Jin

Waiting is a love story set in socialist China around the 1960s to 80s, about a military doctor, Lin Kong, and his lover, Manna Wu, a spinster nurse who has grown old in waiting for Lin Kong to divorce his wife in the country for 17 years.

The novel has been the shortest read I had in quite a while, practically finishing it within five hours. Its story is quite uncomplicated, which does not veer off much from the main plot of the two lovers trying to survive their illicit romance within the bounds of stifling bureaucracy. Lin Kong was bound in a loveless marriage, with his wife chosen for him by his dying mother. And although a dutiful wife, Shuyu never earned the love of the military doctor, for her aged look and bound feet did not make a her presentable wife to society.

Manna Wu and Lin Kong's love blossomed out of the void which each one of them possessed, the latter from a loveless marriage, and the former from abandonment of a cherished lover. The predicaments surrounding their relationship served as a cutting tool--shaping both the characters and the novel itself. Both employed in a military hospital, Manna Wu and Lin Kong never had the chance to consummate their love, as being caught almost equaled to being banished to a far flung province.

As the two waited in vain for Lin Kong to be finally granted a divorce, their love was confined to casual interactions, as the slightest touch hanged like a Damocles sword above their heads. Quite ironically, everybody in the hospital identified them as a couple, only without the liberating shroud of a wedding.

After 18 years of waiting, the final bolt to their romance is unfastened, thus running the gears of the strongest part of the story.

Waiting is an insightful novel to the deceptive nature of human passion. At the latter part of the novel, Ha Jin deconstructs the foundations which fueled Lin Kong in his pursuit of the object which he cannot have. Jin effectively portrays that sometimes, only the chase makes a person yearn for something out of his grasp, and the things that he does have more oftentimes morph into under appreciated possessions.

The words in the books are quite easy to understand. Although it is deplete of the usual divine, richly concocted description of the characters' situations and obstacles, it nevertheless succeeds in painting the internal struggles of its protagonist. Even Manna Wu, which seemed unbelievably unmoved by years of failed promises, was a great canvas for depicting how time could daze even our most ardent desires.

However, I found the novel quite simplistic. Quite simplistic in fact, that I don't think I enjoyed it. It's a good read though, but not something I would devour over and over again.

Rating: Free Smiley Face Courtesy of Lukewarm