From Ha Jin, the widely-acclaimed, award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash, comes a novel that takes his fiction to a new setting: 1990s America. We follow the Wu family--father Nan, mother Pingping, and son Taotao--as they fully sever their ties with China in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and begin a new, free life in the United States.
At first, their future seems well-assured--Nans graduate work in political science at Brandeis University would guarantee him a teaching position in China--but after the fallout from Tiananmen, Nans disillusionment turns him towards his first love, poetry. Leaving his studies, he takes on a variety of menial jobs while Pingping works for a wealthy widow as a cook and housekeeper. As Nan struggles to adapt to a new language and culture, his love of poetry and literature sustains him through difficult, lean years.
Ha Jin creates a moving, realistic, but always hopeful narrative as Nan moves from Boston to New York to Atlanta, ever in search of financial stability and success, even in a culture that sometimes feels oppressive and hostile. As Pingping and Taotao slowly adjust to American life, Nan still feels a strange, paradoxical attachment to his homeland, though he violently disagrees with Communist policy. And severing all ties--including his love for a woman who rejected him in his youth--proves to be more difficult than he could have ever imagined.
Ha Jins prodigious talents are evident in this powerful new book, which brilliantly brings to life the struggles and successes that characterize the contemporary immigrant experience. With its lyrical prose and confident grace, A Free Life is a luminous addition to the works of one of the preeminent writers in America today.
Readers will fall into separate camps over A Free Life. Something about Jin's detached, yet obsessively attentive prose is ultimately readable, and produces a style that some will read as refreshingly spare and realist, while others find stunted and astoundingly boring. The bottom line: If you've never read anything by Ha Jin, definitely read Waiting first. If you're one of many who read Waiting and loved it, then try out A Free Life. Already attuned to his stripped prose styling, you'll be interested to see what happens when he removes the layer of exoticism and lays bare the classic immigrant story with his meticulous rendering and trademark reserve. (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).
The New York Sun - Hua Hsu
Much like Mr. Jin's breakthrough novel, Waiting, a great deal of A Free Life describes how men frequently rationalize their emotional unavailability by claiming a higher purpose — in this case, it is the inextinguishable fire of poetry. These men hurt those around them, so as not to damage them permanently: Nan constantly fantasizes about escape from his loveless obligations to his wife and son, yet he refuses to leave them, which occasionally seems like the crueler fate.
Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese
How do you convey the splendor of a novel when the first adjectives that spring to mind are among the deadliest in a critic's repertoire? Ha Jin's new book is ''long,'' ''earnest,'' and ''slow-moving.'' His prose is ''plain'' and ''quaint,'' his settings ''drab,'' and his characters ''humble'' and ''melancholy.'' Yet A Free Life is one of the most powerful novels of the year, a richly textured and quietly engrossing portrait of the artist as a Chinese immigrant marooned in suburban Atlanta. Rated "A".
A book that has obviously been labored over, yet still feels inchoate and unfocused.
[W]hile Ha Jin's novel lacks Zhivago's epic grandeur, his biggest feat may be making the reader wonder whether the trivialities of American life are not, in some ways, as strange and barbaric as the upheavals of revolution.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Starred Review. Capacious, pointillistic, empathic, and tender, Ha Jin's tale of one immigrant family's odyssey in America affirms humankind's essential mission, to honor life.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Louise J. Inspirational Ha Jin does a wonderful job of bringing the awareness of immigration to the forefront in this novel. Each day, immigrants often have to deal with the process of identity change and racism due to their colour.
Pingping and Nan immigrated to the... Read More
Rated of 5
by Melinda Why create? A theme explored in A Free Life I read the BookBrowse review after I'd just begun the book, and almost put it down, but I'm glad I didn't. This is not a page-turning, fast-moving plot; rather, it's an exploration of several themes by an interesting, introspective character, Nan... Read More
Beginning in mid-April, 1989, thousands of demonstrators anchored by a core
group of dissident university students occupied Beijing's Tiananmen Square. In
what has been described as the greatest challenge to the communist state in
China since its inception in 1949, tens of thousands soon joined in the peaceful
protest, angered by widespread governmental corruption and calling for
In May, demonstrations and marches throughout Beijing
exceeded one million participants. Late on June 3, 1989, army tanks moved into
the square and began firing indiscriminately into the crowd of unarmed
protesters. Estimates of the death toll range from 200 to more than 3000, as the
Chinese government never released any official data or a list of the deceased.
Many more were injured, and still more went missing, were detained, or
imprisoned in the months to come. Tens of thousands of people were arrested in
June and July alone. Many of the student leaders were smuggled into exile in the
U.S and elsewhere....
At once a powerful allegory of a rising China, racked by contradictions, and a seminal examination of the Tiananmen Square protests, Beijing Coma is Ma Jians masterpiece. Spiked with dark wit, poetic beauty, and deep rage, this extraordinary novel confirms his place as one of the worlds most significant living writers.
Oldest romance writer in the world dies aged 105. Books #124 and #125 to be published next year(Dec 10 2013) Ida Pollock, author of more than 120 books, and believed to be the world's oldest romantic novelist, has died at the age of 105.