Excerpt from The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Boat Rocker

by Ha Jin

The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin X
The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2016, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2017, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Print Excerpt

ONE

A week before the fourth anniversary of 9/11, my boss, Kaiming, barged into my office, rattling a three-page printout in his hands. "Look at this, Danlin," he said, dropping the papers on my desk. "This is outrageous! How could they claim that George W. Bush had agreed to endorse a book by Yan Haili? Everyone can tell it's a lie the size of heaven."

I picked up the printout, an article from The Yangtze Morning Post. It raved about "a landmark novel," not yet released. I had recently signed a book contract myself and was used to the hyperbole of the book business, but it was the novelist's name, Yan Haili, that took my breath away. She was my ex-wife. That brassy bitch—she never stopped vying for attention.

The article, printed in the newspaper's literary and art supplement, gushed that her novel, Love and Death in September, was an exotic, whirlwind love story, set by turns in North America, China, Australia, England, Russia, and France. Haili had been working on a potboiler for as long as I'd known her. She'd called it "a fabulous transnational romance." It was yet another project that she hadn't been able to finish. She had never succeeded in finding the center of the story, nor could she connect the various episodes into a plot with a satisfying ending. She had shelved the book again and again, and I'd thought the project was long abandoned. But now—I scanned the article in disbelief—her publisher was claiming the Administrative Office of the Chinese Communist Party had been contacted by the White House, and that President Bush would endorse the English translation of Haili's novel! Why? Because the book "embodied the cooperative spirit between the United States and China in the global war on terrorism." Shoot me if that was true.

The bitch will never change, I realized. I wouldn't let her get away with it this time. I'd figure out a way to expose all her chicaneries and vanity. Even if she begged me on her knees, I wouldn't relent.

"This is nonsense," I said to my boss. "The White House must be more interested in the author than in the book—I mean, in Yan Haili, to find out if she was secretly acting as a Chinese agent."

"That's giving her too much credit," Kaiming said. "She's not smart enough to conduct espionage." He knew how much I hated my ex-wife—that our marriage had lasted only three years before she'd found someone else, and that I couldn't wait to get even with her. He sometimes called Haili "the heartless woman" in front of me.

I said, "So what do you want me to do? This is an arts and culture story—I never write about this kind of thing in my column."

"This time you will. This goes beyond books—I believe it's only one piece of a larger scam."

I was pleased but didn't show it. I said cautiously, "Won't this be a conflict of interest?"

"Conflict of interest? We're dealing with a bunch of scumbags who never do anything by the rules. You can't handle them by acting like a gentleman. I want you to throw all your fire into this case."

"If you want me to expose this scam, you'd better have some idea how it got started."

"I met Jiao Fanping, her publisher, in Beijing last month. Only he's not a true publisher—he's nothing but a profiteer. I want you to write something to expose their scheme before they embarrass lots of us Chinese here in America. We must nip this in the bud."

"I'm afraid it's already blooming into an evil flower."

"We can still pluck it off."

"This will become personal." I tried to smile but felt my face tight.

"I only want you to do the job." My boss smiled.

"I'll see what I can do."

Pleased, Kaiming rose and headed back out to his office, the tail of his pale blue shirt swaying a little. His shoulders were so thick that he appeared to be slightly stooping.

Excerpted from The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin. Copyright © 2016 by Ha Jin. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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