By Denise Turney
At the very start, it is clear why Waiting won a National Book Award. For those interested in seeing a master writer’s creation, I highly recommend that you read Waiting. The story has a universal appeal in that it addresses the issues people around the globe continue to struggle and wrestle with. To provide you back story, Waiting is a book about sought after romance. An honorable physician has been married to his wife, a small docile woman, for more than a decade. Together they have one child, a daughter. The physician remains with his wife and daughter out of obligation. His keeping bills paid, heat in their home, food on the table and clothes on their backs feels empty as the reader realizes that he has not allowed room in his heart for himself to feel love toward his dutiful wife of many years or for their daughter. Instead he yearns to share his life with a colleague at the hospital where he works. Laws in the country prevent them from doing so. The man must gain a divorce before he can join with another woman and he must prove to the court that he has sufficient grounds for divorce. The only grounds he has is that he believes he does not love his wife. The physician and his mistress wait for eighteen years to be together. They work at the same complex, but they hide their love behind cordial business discussions and brief encounters that never involve intimacy. They wait for eighteen years to be able to become husband and wife. It is what ensues during the wait and after they marry that gives the story its strength.
Ha Jin, the book’s author, does a genius work bringing the physician, his wife, their daughter and his mistress to the page. The characters are well developed. There are no heroines or heroes in this story. They are, everyone, like each of us – fully human. And it is this that brings life to Waiting. If you have ever hoped with all of your strength for a thing (i.e. a person, a job, fame, fortune, success) the yearning each character in Waiting feels will seem like home to you. The book tackles burning desire – to want a thing so badly, so deeply, that you fail to see what you do have. The story brings to mind a song Chaka Khan released a few years ago. The song spoke to the fact that we don’t miss our water until the well runs dry. That same message weaves through the pages of Waiting. Yet, it is the pace, the perfect timing, the emotional pull and tug that Ha Jin crafts the story with that makes reading Waiting akin to revisiting pages from pieces of your own life.
Waiting is easily one of the most powerful and poignant books I have enjoyed. If you have ever longed and waited for a desire to manifest, a man or woman to come into your life, to have children, to open your own business, etc. and have wanted your desire to manifest so deeply that you waited for nearly two decades for it to come to pass, then Waiting is for you. For, as Ha Jin, makes clear in the story, it is in the waiting and then the realization of our dream and how we feel about both stages that tell us most who we really are.
Author of the new book Long Walk Up
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