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A Tragic Tale of Lovers Trapped in Waiting Game


Ha Jin, a Chinese nationalist who came to America in 1985, has written a beautiful, multilayered novel disguised as a simple story. On the surface, "Waiting" is a tale of star-crossed lovers, but as themes drift and change, we are treated to an undistorted tale of wasted lives. Ultimately, it is a tragedy in which ill-conceived and changing government policies are set against an unchanged heart. (Brilliance Audio; unabridged fiction; six cassettes; nine hours; $29.95; read by Dick Hill. Also available abridged; two cassettes; three hours; $17.95.)

The story begins in Communist China in the 1960s. Lin Kong, a doctor in the Chinese Army, has agreed to an arranged marriage to please his elderly parents. His bride, a backwater village woman with bound feet, is nothing but an embarrassment to him because she does not fit his view of modern China. He escapes to his life in the army, returning to his family on furlough only 12 days a year.

Not long after their daughter is born, Lin falls in love with Manna Wu, a nurse. And so, for almost two decades, Lin returns home to his wife to ask for a divorce she will not grant. He then waits for the stipulated 18 years of separation to pass before the army will grant him a divorce.

Manna waits for their romance to be consummated. She waits for children and respectability. Manna and Lin are victims of their time and victims of themselves. They live within the strictures of their environment without daring to take a chance.

A winner of the National Book Award, this novel is told without dramatic flare or manipulation. In fact, this inherently sad tale is so devoid of romanticism that it reminds one of the realism of French and Russian 19th century literature.

Narrator Dick Hill clearly understands the complexity of a story that deconstructs human nature with such subtle grace that we are as impacted and surprised as the characters by their wasted lifetimes.

Hill has a rich, deep voice that is polished but never loses its warmth or vibrancy. He captures the extreme terror of a woman as she is raped, and does so with a solid performance. We can easily differentiate among several speakers in one conversation, but these differences are matters of nuance and not overblown characterizations.


Bestselling authors Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds have teamed up for a series of trade paperbacks under the Cover-One series. Their first effort, which has been released on audio in an unabridged format, is the fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable thriller "The Hades Factor." (Audio Renaissance; unabridged fiction; eight cassettes; 13 hours; $39.95; read by Paul Michael.)

Lt. Col. Jon Smith, a doctor with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, becomes embroiled in a worldwide conspiracy that could lead to mass death. Soon after several Americans, including his fiancee, succumb to an Ebola-like hemorrhagic virus, Smith is caught up in a paranoid's nightmare.

He can trust almost no one as he unravels a vicious plot hatched by a drug manufacturer who plans to infect the world with a deadly virus, and then charge billions to distribute the antidote.

This may not be classic literature, but the fast-paced action does not let you down. The main characters are right out of Central Casting, but some of the supporting players are fun. Particularly interesting is Marty, a brilliant computer nerd who barely maintains his sanity through medication, and becomes increasingly imaginative as the pills wear off. Narrator Michael does a wonderful job with this character. He raises his voice a little and speaks faster to impart Marty's mania and edginess.

Michael easily conveys the many nationalities in this story, from a haughty British spy to an intense, Middle Eastern bad guy. He does not rely solely on pronounced ethnicity, but also gives each character enough of a vocal personality to stand apart from the others. The only problem with Michael's narration is that he mispronounces a couple of words.


Rochelle O'Gorman reviews audio books every other week. Next week: Dick Lochte on mystery books.

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