Any reviewer would be justified in calling Ha Jin's latest 672 page novel plodding, the prose laborious, the observations and reflections banal, the dialogue awkward and wooden. So why didn't I stop reading it? Perhaps because Jin is a sly writer, whether he means to be or not. His bare, stilted prose sneaks up on the reader, hiding its emotional and intellectual impact in formal robes, until after 400 pages, one single turning point reveals the sum of their hidden parts. Nan and Pingping Wu have brought their young son to America, worked hard at menial jobs, opened a restaurant, bought and paid off a house in only a handful of rather unremarkable years. Their business is thriving, they have money in the bank, and their son is still in grammar school. Their marriage is weary, but it began that way. As a reader, I'm more than a little perplexed by how little has ...
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