cover image The Boat Rocker

The Boat Rocker

Ha Jin. Pantheon, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-307-91162-9

In his latest novel, Ha Jin (Waiting) takes aim at exploitative novels and international relations as he tells the story of Feng Danlin, a Chinese expatriate journalist living in New York and working for an independent, and influential, Chinese news agency. The year is 2005, and when word comes in that Danlin’s ex-wife, Yan Haili, has written a novel touted by the Chinese government as an instant worldwide bestseller, he pens several exposés concerning the book, challenging everything from the novel’s lackluster style and use of a 9/11 backdrop to Haili’s claims that she has signed a million-dollar-plus deal to adapt her tale into a Hollywood film. It isn’t long before Danlin’s articles gain traction and are reprinted throughout China. He finds himself celebrated by readers, but also the target of a series of verbal and written attacks by Haili and her entourage, and his boat rocking leaves many wondering if, by exposing Haili as a liar and the Chinese government as nefarious, Danlin may also be damaging potential Chinese/American interactions. Ha Jin stretches Danlin’s initial missives, though amusing, nearly to the point of repetitive exhaustion, yet as the novel shifts focus from small squabbles to a more worldly narrative dissecting homeland loyalty and international relationships, it gains momentum. Ha Jin’s prose is always pleasurable to read. (Oct.)