Tag Archives: China

Read: The boat rocker: a novel by Ha Jin

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Having enjoyed Ha Jin’s Waiting, when I saw this book on my local public library’s shelves, I immediately checked it out. Jin is a Chinese author who writes realistic novels about everyday people and their difficulties and daily struggles in life. The boat rocker focuses on Chinese expatriate Feng Danlin who is a journalist in New York city, trying to eek out a living by exposing truth in a world in which people love flashy headlines and are less interested in details.

Jin’s writing is engrossing and fluid, making for a fairly quick read. In addition, the novel contains many poignant quotes about society, government, politics, and the media. Although it’s written about China, it could apply to any country including the US right now.

In such circumstances, a decent citizen should stand up to the government. History has taught us that no country is qualified for the moral high ground. An intellectual’s role is not to serve the state but to keep a close watch on it so that it may not turn abusive, oppressive, justice, freedom, and equality as universal values.

The story is mysterious and draws the reader in. Danlin’s ex-wife is promoting her first novel which will be translated into 30 languages right away and touting the fact that she already has a movie deal worth millions for it. He knows it’s a lie and that while there may be a book, there’s no way it’s good enough to warrant the praise she’s claiming, so he sets out to disprove her lies by exposing them in cutthroat articles interrogating the false claims. However, it’s unclear just what’s going on and who is controlling it, and just how high up the scheme goes.

The tone itself feels like a mystery novel in some ways but it is not a whodunit in the classic sense and there are no bodies or clues to examine. This ambiance adds to the charm of the novel and gives it more depth. It’s not just a story of a man jealous of his ex-wife’s success and trying to ruin her good fortune; she is conniving and exaggerating reality and those around her that are enabling also have much to gain in the US as well as China and they hope all over the world if her success is believed by everyone.

In the end, Danlin is let with not much as money and power prevail over the truth-seeking journalist who won’t quit. But he continues to fight, no matter what, for what is right. While not the happiest ending, it seems like the most fitting for not only this novel but in the present given all of the current events.

Recommended?: Yes, to everyone especially those concerned with recent current events and the media in the United States. While not directly related, certainly the topics and issues brought up in the novel do have some parallels and are interesting to consider.
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Read: Waiting by Ha Jin

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Waiting by Ha Jin is a simple love story, yet love itself is never as simple as it seems. The novel is as a complex as it appears straight-forward and a wonderful tale set in 1980s China.

Lin Kong agreed to an arranged marriage that his parents set up when he was young but the woman that showed up on the wedding day was ragged and wrinkled, not the beauty in the photo that he’d been promised. Feeling obligated and being a good son, he married her anyway. But rural life on a farm is not the life that Lin wants so he leaves to become an army doctor and soon his meets another woman.

Of course, that alone wouldn’t make for a compelling story but the opening lines sure does:

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife. Together they had appeared at the courthouse in Wujia Town many times, but she has always changed her mind at the last moment when the judge asked is she would accept a divorce.

As a good wife, Shuyu cared for Lin’s dying parents, works hard on the farm earning little, and raising their daughter yet Lin feels no love for Shuyu and so pursues divorce in vain with hope. He doesn’t want to remain married to a woman he doesn’t desire and believes he has no obligation to. His heart belongs to a nurse named Manna but he can only court her as a friend since the army doesn’t along any relationships besides married and engaged couples. Until the divorce is complete, Lin and Manna cannot be together.

There is a rule in the army that after 18 years, a divorce can be granted to one partner in the marriage without the say of the other. However, that means Manna has to wait for Lin since it is obvious to her that Shuyu will never give in. Waiting is difficult and her pursuits of other relationships fail, likely due to her desire to be with Lin no matter what.

18 years pass, the divorce is granted, and life and love is more complicated than ever. The future is not what any of them expected. And the waiting does not end.

The story is heart-breaking and heart-warming, a joy to read. It considers what love is but more importantly, how it affects the people in and around it. These are things that we all should consider… and then tell the ones we love that we love them.

 

Recommended?:  Yes, mostly to adult readers since there are several sex scenes including one that’s brutal. It’s a readable, enjoyable book that will make you consider what love means, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or health.

 

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