Three and a half stars, read in February 2017.
The best word I can choose for this book is bittersweet. I’ve had a difficult time figuring out how I feel about it. For some reason it took me a very long time to pick it up, but when I did, it was a sick day spent in bed, so I read almost the whole thing in one sitting.
The writing is lovely, straightforward in a way that was almost comforting; where other books have taught me to expect a trick or sudden disaster, this one just describes things, presenting scenes for their own sake and not as foreshadowing. I kept waiting for something awful to happen, and it never did.
But it wasn’t all warm fuzzies, either. It’s strange because the story depends heavily on empathy with the protagonists, and does foster that, but at the same time I didn’t really like them—but not in the easy way in which you dislike, and don’t mind disliking, Unlikable Characters. Lin and Manna are much more complex, as difficult to sort out as my feelings about them.
I will absolutely be reading another of Ha Jin’s books after this, and I’m interested to see how much of this book was actually this book, and how much is Jin’s style.