Lin Kong is a doctor in a Chinese military hospital. Despite being separated from his wife for 18 years, he has, up until now, been unable to obtain a divorce. He wishes to marry his girlfriend, Manna Wu, and now, finally, he is about to get his wish. The story that follows is an impressive look at marriage, relationships and our fantasies about love.
One can appreciate how author Ha Jin was deftly able to present sympathetic characters here. Despite his committing a despicable act in divorcing a good wife, we can still feel badly about Lin Kong’s plight. Ultimately the novel is about desire and waiting for its fulfillment. Lin Kong desires a woman who thrills him mentally and sexually. Manna Wu desires a husband who can provide her with a family. Shuyu desires to achieve family unity (and honor) by being an obedient wife. Even China desires to shed itself of its past and move forward into the 20th century. They all wait, but eventually the change they have been waiting for happens. But does reality match up with fantasy?
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1999