A Free Life

Added June 15, 2011
  • A Free Life
  • Ha Jin
  • Pantheon, New York, 2007

a-free_-life_-arc-front_-cover_ This novel represents a major shift in Jin’s writing style from his earlier work. Publishers Weekly calls it Jin’s first American novel. All his previous fiction takes place in China, whereas this one takes place in the United States.

A Free Life follows one Chinese immigrant’s family through the minutia of their lives to expose what it truly means to be an immigrant in a not always welcoming society.

Reviewers loved the book. In Booklist’s starred review they said of A Free Life: “Capacious, pointillistic, empathic, and tender, Ha Jin’s tale of one immigrant family’s odyssey in America affirms humankind’s essential mission, to honor life.” a-free_-life_-arc-signature

Readers had mixed feelings about it, though. Some found the syntax jarring and odd. One Amazon reviewer wrote: “How this book won Notable Book from the NY Times and One of the Best Books of the Year (Chicago Tribute, Chicago Sun Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Slate) is beyond me.”

a-free_-life_-arc-letter Myself, I couldn’t put it down. The syntax for me was both endearing and slightly off-putting (but to excellent effect).

This is an uncorrected proof copy which I had signed at a local reading. It is in fine condition.

Note the letter to the potential reader from Pantheon’s Executive Editor.

Jin’s work should be much more valuable than it is. a-free_-life_-arc-copy_ He has won many prestigious literary prizes including the National Book Award, the Asian Fellowship, the Pen/Hemingway Award, and the Pen/Faulkner Award. His fiction is of the highest calibre.

Yet there are three signed copies exactly like this one for sale on AbeBooks today for between $40 and $60. Even nice, signed copies of his 1999 masterpiece, Waiting, can be found for well under $100.

Buy now, collectors, while prices are low. In time, Jin’s contribution to literature is sure to be noticed, and when it is, prices for his signed first editions will certainly rise.

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