Another shopping cart book that I picked up because I’ve enjoyed Ha Jin in the past. Even though these characters can be a little frustrating at times, it was worth reading. Plus, people really are frustrating, so that’s just life.
The book starts with Lin Kong going on his annual trip to the courthouse in his hometown to divorce his wife, Shuyu. Lin and Shuyu have been separated for 17 years at this point, since the birth of their daughter. Shuyu always initially agrees to the divorce but changes her mind when they get to court. After years and years of this, the couple has become a joke in the town. Lin was always ashamed of his wife, who was chosen for him by his parents. Shuyu looked older than him, had bound feet, and was illiterate. She has been nothing but an outstanding wife to him—she took care of his parents until they died, looked after the farm, and raised their daughter almost single handedly. He just didn’t love her, and refused to even bring her to the hospital where he worked and lived. As a result Lin only sees Shuyu and his daughter for less than two weeks a year.
Lin has problems at the hospital as well. For over a decade he has been in a chaste relationship with a nurse at the hospital, Manna Wu. Lin and Manna have waited patiently for the divorce to go through. Hospital rules bar them from even leaving the hospital grounds together. Both have tried to stay away from each other but couldn’t.
Waiting is almost 20 years of unfulfilled lust, disappointment, bitterness, and some surprising tenderness. It’s a fascinating and frustrating book. The writing is superb and the characters are so realistic that you can’t help but feel for everyone and hope that there is a way out of this dilemma.