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A Free Life

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 — Nan's graduate work in political science at Brandeis University would guarantee him a teaching position in China — but after the fallout from Tiananmen, Nan's 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 Jin's 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.

Review:

"Ha Jin's success in the United States has been an extraordinary rebuttal to Yeats' claim that 'no man can think or write with music and vigor except in his mother tongue.' An immigrant from China who survived the Cultural Revolution and almost six years in the People's Liberation Army, Jin had been writing in English less than a decade when he won a PEN/Hemingway Award in 1996 for his first story... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

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." Booklist

Review:

"Jin takes his writing to a new level as he skillfully crafts an ambitiously angst-filled yet masterly tale of assimilation overflowing with both heart and culture. Highly recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"Jin's descriptions of Nan's journey back to the page are amusing, with enough veiled references to well-known poets and writers to keep a literary sleuth busy." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Review:

"There are times one wishes Jin had been more selective and taken an editor's pencil to his manuscript. But there is also something apt about a book that is as vast and unbounded as the brave and overwhelming new world it describes." Boston Globe

Review:

"It is not a lyrical novel, but it is beautifully written, and Nan's Chinese-English dictionary becomes the icon of an outsider's quest to remove the borders from around human personality." Oregonian

Review:

"If likened to an American novelist, Ha Jin may bear the closest resemblance to John Steinbeck, both in his relatively simple, straightforward prose and in his novelistic eye." Chicago Tribune

Review:

"Jin describes every joy and sorrow in a plain-spoken prose style that moves along with the fluidity of water." Seattle Times

Review:

"Unlike many other Asian-American novels that emphasize the American-born child's estrangement from Chinese-born parents, Ha Jin's novel focuses on the young men and women who arrived in America already assuming the responsibilities of adulthood as they learned a new language and developed their work ethic." Denver Post

Synopsis:

From the acclaimed, award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash comes a new novel that eloquently re-imagines the American immigrant saga. Jin tells the story of the Wu family, that sets out on a journey through contemporary America in search of a sense of belonging.

About the Author

Ha Jin was awarded the PEN/Faulkner Award for Waiting and War Trash; Waiting also won the National Book Award. His other books include the novel The Crazed; three short story collections: The Bridegroom, which won the Asian American Literary Award, Under the Red Flag, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and Ocean of Words, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award; and three books of poetry. He is a professor of English at Boston University and lives in the Boston area.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

justannesopinion, April 21, 2008 (view all comments by justannesopinion)
A really unusual book! The author manages to create a texture and narrative that make a reader see and feel a particular immigrant experience. It's a long book filled with not only events and emotions, but also details of daily life, all told with equal emphasis. This gives it a unique texture, which worked very well for me.

There are many places where the author could go for easy sentimentality or contrived melodrama, but he keeps the narrative true to itself. I cared about the characters and their journeys.
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(3 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780375424656
Publisher:
Pantheon Books
Subject:
Literary
Author:
Jin, Ha
Subject:
Immigrants
Subject:
Poetry
Subject:
Family life
Subject:
Immigrants -- United States.
Subject:
Poets
Publication Date:
October 2007
Binding:
Hardcover
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
660
Dimensions:
9.52x6.30x1.42 in. 2.07 lbs.

Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

A Free Life
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 660 pages Pantheon Books - English 9780375424656 Reviews:
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Jin takes his writing to a new level as he skillfully crafts an ambitiously angst-filled yet masterly tale of assimilation overflowing with both heart and culture. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "Jin's descriptions of Nan's journey back to the page are amusing, with enough veiled references to well-known poets and writers to keep a literary sleuth busy."
"Review" by , "There are times one wishes Jin had been more selective and taken an editor's pencil to his manuscript. But there is also something apt about a book that is as vast and unbounded as the brave and overwhelming new world it describes."
"Review" by , "It is not a lyrical novel, but it is beautifully written, and Nan's Chinese-English dictionary becomes the icon of an outsider's quest to remove the borders from around human personality."
"Review" by , "If likened to an American novelist, Ha Jin may bear the closest resemblance to John Steinbeck, both in his relatively simple, straightforward prose and in his novelistic eye."
"Review" by , "Jin describes every joy and sorrow in a plain-spoken prose style that moves along with the fluidity of water."
"Review" by , "Unlike many other Asian-American novels that emphasize the American-born child's estrangement from Chinese-born parents, Ha Jin's novel focuses on the young men and women who arrived in America already assuming the responsibilities of adulthood as they learned a new language and developed their work ethic."
"Synopsis" by , From the acclaimed, award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash comes a new novel that eloquently re-imagines the American immigrant saga. Jin tells the story of the Wu family, that sets out on a journey through contemporary America in search of a sense of belonging.
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