Ha Jin’s novel, Waiting, tells the story of Lin Kong, an army doctor who is caught in a state of limbo between his traditional marriage to a village woman named Shuyu and his love for Manna Wu, a nurse at his hospital. During the eighteen years that pass in the novel Lin struggles with how to handle his feelings for Manna and his guilt about the wife he left behind while trying to adhere to the strict social rules of post-cultural revolution military life. Lin returns to his village every year to try and divorce Shuyu but always fails, leaving him and Manna unable to take their relationship any further.
Post-Cultural Revolution Chinese society plays a large role in Jin’s book. Check out this New York Times timeline of Chinese communism and read accounts of how families were torn apart during the Cultural Revolution in these articles from CNN and the Guardian. The New York Times also features photographs by and interview with Li Zhensheng, a photojournalist who documented the Cultural Revolution for the Communist Party. Zhensheng hid many of his photographs from authorities because of the negative way in which they portrayed the revolution.