The lure of this book comes more from the insight into life as an academic in Mainland China than in the lives of the characters, who seem to be ruled by tradition and decorum rather than by their hearts and emotions. Actually, the point at which the book ends is the point at which the main character actually realizes that he may be able to contol his own destiny; the point at which a really good book was about to begin.
A glimpse into China of the cultural revolution and the student protests of 1989. Draws a lot of interesting parallels between the two time periods. I believe that Ha Jin is one of the premier novelists of the 20th century, especially one of the best chronicling 20th century China.