A Free Life
By Ha Jin
New York : Pantheon Books, c2007
Call No.: JIN
Ha Jin has done it again.
He has mined that mixture of rich imagination and real life and produced yet another detailed (very detailed) narrative about how a Chinese immigrant settles in the United States with wife and a son in tow.
Of course, the author does not believe in using broad brush strokes to paint his tale, but fills it with lots of details, be it about the “refund or money back” guarantee policies in American supermarkets to the hassles of getting a place in school for his son in a neighbourhood close to their place.
Each prose and paragraph packs in so much information that at times, the reader does have to take a break to breathe and make sense of what has been written.
Running at close to 700 pages, the book is chronological in its narration and broken into 7 parts with an epilogue as well as a selection of poetry by the main protagonist
He dedicates the novel to his wife and son and there are a lot of semi-autobiographical details in the novel which, perhaps, mirrors his own personal experience and life in the United States.
Much has been mentioned and written about the immigrant life in America but I doubt there has been much that has been written with such sensible detail and understanding of what it really makes to be in a different culture and country; straddling between both worlds, the one left behind and the one adopted.
~ Contributed by Michael Chin
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