A Free Life

A Free Life

eBook - 2007
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A New York Times Notable Book

One of the Best Books of the Year: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Entertainment Weekly, Slate

nbsp;In A Free Life , Ha Jin follows the Wu family -- father Nan, mother Pingping, and son Taotao -- as they sever their ties with China in the aftermath of the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square and begin a new life in the United States. As Nan takes on a number of menial jobs, eventually operating a restaurant with Pingping, he struggles to adapt to the American way of life and to hold his family together, even as he pines for a woman he loved and lost in his youth. Ha Jin's prodigious talents are in full force as he brilliantly brings to life the struggles and successes of the contemporary immigrant experience.

Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2007
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780375425264
Characteristics: 660 p. ; 25 cm


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RogerDeBlanck Jun 30, 2018

A Free Life is a decent addition to Ha Jin's oeuvre, but it does not represent his best work. For the first time, Ha Jin steps away from his homeland in order to address the immigrant experience in America. He does so through the Wu family: husband Nan, wife Pingping, and their son Taotao. Nan is studying political science in America at Brandeis University at the time of the Tiananmen massacre. The horror of the event traumatizes him into abandoning his studies and believing that China’s future is no longer a place for him to return and teach. Nan decides to naturalize in the United States. His wife joins him, followed eventually by his young son. The story begins with the emotional arrival of Taotao to America from China, yet everything that follows the tenderness of that opening event lacks deeper impact. What transpires is the rather flat treatment of the myriad struggles of the Wu family. At an epic length of nearly 700 pages, the novel’s chapters rarely exceed five pages in length. The story reads easily with rapid pacing, and Ha Jin’s prose exemplifies his signature style of refined and delicate phrasing. However, the totality of the narrative amounts to meanderings, snippets, and vignettes that do not coalesce into an especially profound exploration of the acculturation process.

Aug 24, 2012

The tribulations of a Chinese immigrant family in the US, particularly the man's struggle with having to provide for the family and his aspirations to poetry - which failed to engage me on the personal level: I just could not muster up a lot of empathy for him or any of the other characters...

Jul 06, 2012

An outstanding story of Chinese immigrants "living the American dream" in Boston and then Georgia. Terrific, complex characters stuggle with their relationships with their new and old countries and with each other. The story focuses on Nan, the husband and father. Once a student directed by China to study Political Science he drops out and opts to stay in America after Tiananmen. He learns to be a chef and later opens his own restaurant in Georgia with wife PingPing. What he really wants to do is write poetry. He struggles to do so, seeking strong emotion which he hopes will inspire him. Eventually he learns, as most of us do, that ideals of passion and love and a worry-free life may not be attainable and that inspiration can be found close at hand with our loved ones and that few people reach the ideal of the American dream. The glory is in the striving.

Dec 26, 2011

Thanks that's very encouraging o.o
672 pages... well i'm used to long novels... but yeah i will read it :O

May 22, 2008

An "immigrant experience story" through a poet's vision. Don't let the 672 pages intimidate you...


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