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A Song Everlasting

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From the universally admired, National Book Award-winning, bestselling author of Waiting--a timely novel that follows a famous Chinese singer severed from his country, as he works to find his way in the United States At the end of a U.S. tour with his state-supported choir, popular singer Yao Tian takes a private gig in New York to pick up some extra cash for his daughter' From the universally admired, National Book Award-winning, bestselling author of Waiting--a timely novel that follows a famous Chinese singer severed from his country, as he works to find his way in the United States At the end of a U.S. tour with his state-supported choir, popular singer Yao Tian takes a private gig in New York to pick up some extra cash for his daughter's tuition fund, but the consequences of his choice spiral out of control. On his return to China, Tian is informed that the sponsors of the event were supporters of Taiwan's secession, and that he must deliver a formal self-criticism. When he is asked to forfeit his passport to his employer, Tian impulsively decides instead to return to New York to protest the government's threat to his artistic integrity. With the help of his old friend Yabin, Tian's career begins to flourish in the United States. But he is soon placed on a Chinese gov­ernment blacklist and thwarted by the state at every turn, and it becomes increasingly clear that he may never return to China unless he denounces the freedoms that have made his new life possible. Tian nevertheless insists on his identity as a performer, refusing to give up his art. Moving, important, and strikingly relevant to our times, A Song Everlasting is a story of hope in the face of hardship from one of our most celebrated authors.


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From the universally admired, National Book Award-winning, bestselling author of Waiting--a timely novel that follows a famous Chinese singer severed from his country, as he works to find his way in the United States At the end of a U.S. tour with his state-supported choir, popular singer Yao Tian takes a private gig in New York to pick up some extra cash for his daughter' From the universally admired, National Book Award-winning, bestselling author of Waiting--a timely novel that follows a famous Chinese singer severed from his country, as he works to find his way in the United States At the end of a U.S. tour with his state-supported choir, popular singer Yao Tian takes a private gig in New York to pick up some extra cash for his daughter's tuition fund, but the consequences of his choice spiral out of control. On his return to China, Tian is informed that the sponsors of the event were supporters of Taiwan's secession, and that he must deliver a formal self-criticism. When he is asked to forfeit his passport to his employer, Tian impulsively decides instead to return to New York to protest the government's threat to his artistic integrity. With the help of his old friend Yabin, Tian's career begins to flourish in the United States. But he is soon placed on a Chinese gov­ernment blacklist and thwarted by the state at every turn, and it becomes increasingly clear that he may never return to China unless he denounces the freedoms that have made his new life possible. Tian nevertheless insists on his identity as a performer, refusing to give up his art. Moving, important, and strikingly relevant to our times, A Song Everlasting is a story of hope in the face of hardship from one of our most celebrated authors.

30 review for A Song Everlasting

  1. 4 out of 5

    mesal

    Thank you to NetGalley as well as Knopf Doubleday for providing me with a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Ha Jin's upcoming novel is a character-driven, reflective tale about a Chinese singer forced out of his home country, taking refuge in the United States and hoping to become naturalized. You can really tell that the author drew from his own experiences as a man who moved from China to the States, rejecting mainland politics and forging a different life. The writing Thank you to NetGalley as well as Knopf Doubleday for providing me with a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Ha Jin's upcoming novel is a character-driven, reflective tale about a Chinese singer forced out of his home country, taking refuge in the United States and hoping to become naturalized. You can really tell that the author drew from his own experiences as a man who moved from China to the States, rejecting mainland politics and forging a different life. The writing style is very straightforward, with short, simple sentences that methodically get the story across to the reader. That isn't to say that the language itself is plain. Quite the opposite: the author constantly uses poetry and verse in his writing, elevating it to a degree. At first I thought I wouldn't be able to get used to such a writing style, but one chapter in and I stopped noticing it entirely, drawn in by the plot, characters and setting. Neither NetGalley nor Goodreads specify this anywhere, but I'm pretty sure this is fiction, regardless of how realistically it has been written. (You could have fooled me into thinking that Ha Jin was writing Yao Tian's biography. I would have believed you.) The author really takes you into the minds of the characters and the reasons behind every tiny action, leaving no detail unmentioned. I felt that a lot of this book managed to relate to current affairs as well. No matter the year, there is always a government in the world that the people find controlling and oppressive, and that truth has not changed even today. I found that many of the poems Ha Jin quoted, or the lyrics Yao Tian wrote, perhaps unintentionally could easily be used in reference to countries that aren't China but would fit just as well. I won't be quoting them, though, regardless of how much I want to, because at the end of the day this is still an ARC. If you want to see what I'm talking about, read the book when it comes out next month :)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trish Ryan

    I really appreciated the subtle intensity of this book. It is written in such straightforward, unemotional prose that it’s easy to miss how slowly some of the traps the author sets tighten around his character. The whole book had a different, almost detached tone that set it apart from other books I’m reading right now and made the individual scenes memorable and thought provoking. A great read. Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Roger DeBlanck

    While on tour in New York City with one of China’s state-authorized musical troupes, renowned singer Yao Tian decides to make a little extra cash for his daughter’s tuition by taking on a side performance after the troupe’s last scheduled concert. Once back in China, Tian learns that the cash he earned had been funded by a Taiwanese freedom group. Even though Tian had been unaware of the circumstances, state officials order him to provide a self-criticism and to relinquish his passport. Tian imme While on tour in New York City with one of China’s state-authorized musical troupes, renowned singer Yao Tian decides to make a little extra cash for his daughter’s tuition by taking on a side performance after the troupe’s last scheduled concert. Once back in China, Tian learns that the cash he earned had been funded by a Taiwanese freedom group. Even though Tian had been unaware of the circumstances, state officials order him to provide a self-criticism and to relinquish his passport. Tian immediately foresees how his honest mistake of only wanting to secure money for his family has now escalated out of control with government superiors intent on branding him a dissident and ruining his career. With the support of his wife and daughter, he makes a heartrending decision with the hope that his predicament in China hopefully calms down and resolves itself. However, the Chinese government then blacklists him, and his quest for personal and artistic freedom places great strain on his family and also on his ability to sustain his singing career. With tender and touching compassion, Ha Jin charts Tian’s manifest struggles, frustrations, and heartaches in his fractured relationship with his homeland and with his family. I was thoroughly gripped to Tian’s plight, and I appreciate Jin’s ability to explore Tian’s predicament with a brilliant combination of aching fervor and subtle humor. The novel also possesses a degree of dread as it veers towards tragedy, yet Jin is masterful at balancing the reality of distress with an antidote of hopefulness. Ha Jin’s graceful, unembellished prose captures keen cerebral insights and lovely sensory details, and his seemingly simple tale of an immigrant striving to find his grounding resonates with a humane politicism that is unique and vital in today’s literary world. A Song Everlasting is a memorable novel, and it ranks alongside Waiting, War Trash, and A Map of Betrayal as my favorites among Ha Jin’s substantial body of work, which includes many fine novels, short story collections, poetry volumes, and nonfiction books.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    By disposition Tian abhorred politics, but he had his principles and believed in justice and personal freedom.~ A Song Everlasting by Ha Jin He was just a singer who wanted to sing the songs that he loved. He sang with great soul and feeling, the music carrying him away emotionally. He was tired of the proscribed patriotic songs. Tian was an acclaimed singer from the People’s Republic of China, on tour in America, when he was asked to sing at a commemoration concert for National Day. The rest of t By disposition Tian abhorred politics, but he had his principles and believed in justice and personal freedom.~ A Song Everlasting by Ha Jin He was just a singer who wanted to sing the songs that he loved. He sang with great soul and feeling, the music carrying him away emotionally. He was tired of the proscribed patriotic songs. Tian was an acclaimed singer from the People’s Republic of China, on tour in America, when he was asked to sing at a commemoration concert for National Day. The rest of the troupe returned to China on time, while he stayed over a day for the concert. After returning home, his action makes him suspect and Tian learns that his visa was to be impounded by the state. Tian talked it over with his wife, a beautiful professor, and he decides to leave China before he lost his visa. It is the start of a journey Tian did not envision, his actions precipitating China’s endeavor to bring him home, to silence his singing by threat when bribery failed. Tian remains idealistic and sure over years separated from his wife and daughter, staying faithful and sending the bulk of his earnings home, Tian’s career faltering under political pressure. “Freedom is largely an illusion,” the Chinese Ambassador told Tian, noting that freedom is nothing if you are powerless and hungry. The state can provide all your needs, he advises. He could be wealthy. But Tian did not want more, he did not want fame, he only wanted to “be an artist following my own heart.” Ha Jin’s novel shockingly reveals life in China, how corruption and control is tolerated through the provided essentials. In America, Jin is completely self reliant. Until Romneycare, he rarely had health insurance, which becomes essential when he discovers he has cancer. Tian may have eschewed politics but his situation forces him to consider the politics of China and America, the cost of freedom and the lure of security. Learning the truth of the Tiananmen massacre, and knowing his sister was imprisoned for being a part of a religious group, leading to her unnecessary death, he is changed, forced to reconsider his motherland where the truth is hidden and greed fuels graft and power abuses the people. A fellow Chinese musician asks, “What if your country is an evil power,” that has ruthlessly harmed your family, and reduces humans to tools? His friend from Beijing, searching for the American Dream, notes “we have been caged by all sorts of rules…adopted as our way of life,” as if coded into their DNA. “You call me a traitor to China,” Tian writes, “but China betrayed me first.” If a country had betrayed a citizen, isn’t the citizen entitled to betray the country?~ A Song Everlasting by Ha Jin Tian is notified that he is considered a defector. He will never be able to return. The cost of his freedom is risk. It was frightening to Tian, but he continued to work hard and accept the challenges. And in the end, becoming an American saves his life and brings him happiness. Ha Jin’s style of writing is without embellishment, there are no ornate verbal mechanisms to elicit an emotional response. It is straight forward storytelling. Still, I found great humor and developed an emotional attachment to Tian. I noted the mention of poetry throughout the book, Tian reading Mark Strand or The Best American Poetry 2012. Ha Jin is a poet, a man who came to America for education and stayed after realizing the cost of the motherland. In his poem I Sing of an Old Land, he wrote, I join those who fled and returned, who disappeared in other lands bearing no hope but persistence, no honor but the story, no fortune but parents and children, singing a timeless curse, a curse that has bound us together and rooted us deep in the wreck of our homeland. I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Royce

    Ha Jin said the “price for freedom is uncertainty.” This is the central theme throughout his latest novel, A Song Everlasting. This book took me longer than usual to read because of the writing. He writes in the most understated way. It is very difficult to describe but you want to read every word so you do not miss one detail of the story. It is a similar theme Mr. Jin has written about in his earlier work; newly arrived immigrants from China facing uncertainty but willing to live in a foreign Ha Jin said the “price for freedom is uncertainty.” This is the central theme throughout his latest novel, A Song Everlasting. This book took me longer than usual to read because of the writing. He writes in the most understated way. It is very difficult to describe but you want to read every word so you do not miss one detail of the story. It is a similar theme Mr. Jin has written about in his earlier work; newly arrived immigrants from China facing uncertainty but willing to live in a foreign place, America, in exchange for living free. His writing is so extraordinary, it is hard to imagine that he learned English when he was a teenager. Highly recommend this beautiful story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    I was disappointed by Ha Jin's A Song Everlasting, the story of a Chinese tenor who travels to the U.S. when he begins to suspect that he may be facing a struggle with the Chinese government. The brief bottom line is this: the writing style holds readers at a distance, with a "this happened, this happened, this happened" narrative that offers almost nothing of the characters' interiority. The problems faced by Ha Jin's protagonist are significant and have the potential to be engaging, but I neve I was disappointed by Ha Jin's A Song Everlasting, the story of a Chinese tenor who travels to the U.S. when he begins to suspect that he may be facing a struggle with the Chinese government. The brief bottom line is this: the writing style holds readers at a distance, with a "this happened, this happened, this happened" narrative that offers almost nothing of the characters' interiority. The problems faced by Ha Jin's protagonist are significant and have the potential to be engaging, but I never felt connected to him or his story sufficiently to make my reading more eager. I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher; the opinions are my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This was a pretty slow read but I was not tempted to put it down. This is a very good writer who shows a lot of tenderness for the main character, an expatriate Chinese singer. There is a lot of Chinese politics that was only somewhat interesting to me but a good portrayal of the immigrant experience.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    If this book were to be retitled along the lines of Jin’s most famous work, Waiting, it would be called Settling. Tian was a moderately famous singer in China, but circumstances force him into self-imposed exile in America. He leaves his wife and daughter in Beijing, attempts to continue his career in New York, and the book follows him for the next 7 years. I get it, this novel is about the immigrant experience and the difficulties that someone as famous and talented as Tian can face. But I felt If this book were to be retitled along the lines of Jin’s most famous work, Waiting, it would be called Settling. Tian was a moderately famous singer in China, but circumstances force him into self-imposed exile in America. He leaves his wife and daughter in Beijing, attempts to continue his career in New York, and the book follows him for the next 7 years. I get it, this novel is about the immigrant experience and the difficulties that someone as famous and talented as Tian can face. But I felt there were too many inconsistencies with his perception, his expectations, and his aspirations. Before he immigrated, Tian was an internationally renowned, well-traveled performer, but was sheltered by the insular existence of being Chinese. He’s incredibly naïve with one example being that he didn’t even know about universal healthcare until he’d been in the States for over 6 years. As the book plods along, we see how he copes with challenges, bureaucracies, and relationships, but nothing profound really happens to Tian. There are a few interesting episodes, and really, Tian is a good guy, but overall, this wasn’t the most captivating of Jin’s books. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    Ha Jin demonstrates his expertise as a storyteller through the fictional life of Yao Tian, a famous Chinese singer. Tian’s story begins with a decision to perform at an unapproved private event in New York City while visiting from China on a state-sanctioned US tour, and the consequences of this decision unravel for decades. Tian soon learns that the sponsors of this private event were supporters of Taiwan’s secession, and when faced with an order to forfeit his passport, Tian chooses to uproot f Ha Jin demonstrates his expertise as a storyteller through the fictional life of Yao Tian, a famous Chinese singer. Tian’s story begins with a decision to perform at an unapproved private event in New York City while visiting from China on a state-sanctioned US tour, and the consequences of this decision unravel for decades. Tian soon learns that the sponsors of this private event were supporters of Taiwan’s secession, and when faced with an order to forfeit his passport, Tian chooses to uproot from his home and leave his family in China to immigrate to the US. Ha Jin leverages Tian’s story to explore the heartbreak of separation from loved ones while giving voice to the uncertainty that largely defines immigration for so many individuals. Tian is written with such intimate precision that the reader quickly becomes wrapped up in his world. This is a slow moving novel, maybe slower than I would typically prefer, but in exchange the reader is provided with a story that is so rich in details and emotions. Ha Jin’s writing is beautiful through its simplicity, and I absolutely loved immersing myself in this work. Thank you to Pantheon for this gifted copy!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bagus

    By nature, Yao Tian is much like Václav Havel who negotiated his position in communist Czechoslovakia. He was a playwright who only wanted to create art and followed his instinct as an artist to create distinguished plays. Yet in the process, he unintentionally found himself in conflict with the authorities who sees his works as political and threaten the security of the state. Similarly, Yao Tian also did not think much when he decides to take the job singing at a concert in front of the Chines By nature, Yao Tian is much like Václav Havel who negotiated his position in communist Czechoslovakia. He was a playwright who only wanted to create art and followed his instinct as an artist to create distinguished plays. Yet in the process, he unintentionally found himself in conflict with the authorities who sees his works as political and threaten the security of the state. Similarly, Yao Tian also did not think much when he decides to take the job singing at a concert in front of the Chinese diaspora during the brief visit of his troupe to New York City. At that time, he only thought of it as an easy way to make money, with $4,000 in a single performance that he considered will be useful for his daughter’s college tuition in the future. Upon returning to China, he found themselves labelled as a subversive element by the Chinese authorities and they attempted to confiscate his passport before he finally escaped to the United States. Like Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov before him, Ha Jin was also cursed to write in English as an exile, even though, unlike his two exile predecessors, he still writes about China with the intention to spread his message to an international audience. He was a student at Brandeis University in 1989 when the Tiananmen incident happened, an eventuality that would hasten his decision to fully immigrate to the United States. Through the character Yao Tian, Ha Jin tries to embed his integrity into a character that seeks objectivity in his artistic pursuit as a singer. Prior to his exile in the US, Yao Tian was a famous and privileged singer in China, albeit most of his repertoires are propaganda songs. He is hardly a political man, yet it’s through this character that Ha Jin shows how even without any ill-intention, an artist could be in conflict with the state. Since anyway, who can guarantee what an artist intended to say when they perform something and who can guarantee how the audience’s interpretation will be? This has become the fear of Stalin too in the late 1930s during the Great Terror, in which many artists in the Soviet Union were sent into gulags. Yet beyond the heavy political message in his writing, I find Ha Jin’s prose amusing, living up to the thematic symbol of this novel. Yao Tian’s life is like a song. A song could consist of many elements, but mainly sound and silence. The sound could strike a high tone and also a low one in some parts of the song. His first thirty-something years of life in China could be said as an uneasy negotiation between his position as an artist and the Chinese government position to keep the artists in the top position as long as they follow the official lines. Yao Tian’s life slowly went downhill after his arrival in the US as an exiled artist. His career was sabotaged, his passport was revoked by the Chinese authorities, and his reputation was tarnished by the media that kept feeding the world on his failure as a result of his prodigal action towards his warm Chinese motherland. Yet on a positive note, Ha Jin demonstrates to us that there are many ways humans could still amend their lives even after meeting consecutive failures, and I see Yao Tian’s character as the very nature of the human condition. Some people might take the bait of Ha Jin’s tendency and see this novel as anti-CCP propaganda, but there are more positive aspects to this novel as well even if we discount the political message. Music has been regarded as a universal language and this might be another message that Ha Jin tries to elaborate on through Yao Tian’s character. If political discussion could lead to nowhere and even values could be compromised when money is involved, then probably with music we could have a more honest dialogue. Susan Sontag once wrote that art used to be regarded as a mimetic expression, to mirror what happens in everyday life during antiquities. It was recent that art took its turn as something that carried values and ideas, and thus required further interpretation to understand the hidden meaning. Yet not every artistic expression is political or carry hidden intention. Some artistic works are meant to be understood by using our senses, much like Humbert Humbert in Nabokov’s Lolita belongs to the realm of fiction, but not in a realist sense.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura Hill

    Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Pantheon and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on July 27th, 2021. Writing: 5/5 Plot: 4/5 Characters: 4/5 A beautifully understated and surprisingly engaging book about a Chinese tenor struggling to make it on his own in the US after finding himself on the wrong side of the Chinese party. I appreciated the picture of modern China and an individual Chinese artist through Tian’s experiences w Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Pantheon and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on July 27th, 2021. Writing: 5/5 Plot: 4/5 Characters: 4/5 A beautifully understated and surprisingly engaging book about a Chinese tenor struggling to make it on his own in the US after finding himself on the wrong side of the Chinese party. I appreciated the picture of modern China and an individual Chinese artist through Tian’s experiences with the Chinese government, friends, and family as he is bribed, blacklisted, and receives appeals to his love of and duty towards his country. Where some of the government techniques were things I had heard of, many were not, and I was surprised at the insidious nature of government manipulations outside of China through local operatives, foreign newspapers, etc. Tender and reflective, this is the story of Tian’s life, not a political treatise or call to arms. Tian in some ways is a bit of an innocent — decidedly apolitical and consistently working to maintain artistic integrity and personal principles. I learned a lot and was surprised that the book kept pulling at me as it isn’t my typical fare. Definitely worth reading. A few quotes: “This new understanding threw him into a peculiar kind of excitement, because it indicated that the citizens and the country were equal partners in an agreement. Tian gathered that this equality must be the basis of democracy. Now he could see why the Constitution meant so much to the United States. It was the foundation of the nation. With such a realization he became willing to defend the Constitution, even to bear arms if he was called upon, simply because he believed in noble ideas and was willing to sacrifice …” “He realized many immigrants were in varying degrees of the same situation: They were attempting to break loose from the grip of the past and to start over in a faraway place, but few of them could foresee the price for that new beginning, or the pain and the hardship that came after.” “In the context of the Tiananmen massacre, China seemed to him more like an old hag, so senile and so ailing that she had to eat the flesh and blood of her children to sustain herself. In the back of his mind lingered a question to which he didn’t yet know the answer: If a country has betrayed a citizen, isn’t the citizen entitled to betray the country?”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mary Coder

    THANK YOU KINDLY! @pantheonbooks @penguinrandomhouse for an ARC of "A Song Everlasting" by award winning author Ha Jin. The bestselling author of Waiting—delivers a timely novel that follows a famous Chinese singer severed from his country, as he works to find his way in the United States. With a steady and sure prose this book tells a story through the feelings of Yao Tian, an immigrant artist whose desire to express himself freely finds out he isn't free to do so at all. A performance in the US THANK YOU KINDLY! @pantheonbooks @penguinrandomhouse for an ARC of "A Song Everlasting" by award winning author Ha Jin. The bestselling author of Waiting—delivers a timely novel that follows a famous Chinese singer severed from his country, as he works to find his way in the United States. With a steady and sure prose this book tells a story through the feelings of Yao Tian, an immigrant artist whose desire to express himself freely finds out he isn't free to do so at all. A performance in the US leaves him at odds with his country & his desire for self expression so he must sing the song of his heart. I felt this conflict with him throughout his journey. It's not hard to imagine his woes and triumphs if put in his predicament in Ha Jins moving tale that I highly recommend. 🎼 🎼 🎶🎵 🎶 🎶🎵 🎶🎵 #bookreviewpost #bookblogpost  #newbookpost  #booknerdsofig #bookstagrammer  #bookbloggin  #reviewpost #honestreview #ireviewbooksnstuff #illreadit #illreadandreviewit #galleyreviewer #iread  #readmorebooksyall #sendgalleysplease #sendmoregalleysplz #ineed2read #morebooks #booksandbeauty #readmore  #beautyandbooks  #readthis #honestedits #bookrec #honestreviewer #booktokker #ireviewbooksandbeautyandstuff

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chrystal

    Similar to his previous novel A Free Life which follows the struggles of a Chinese immigrant family in America, A Song Everlasting follows a Chinese singer who is searching for freedom to live his life, both as an artist and as a human being.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jess George

    Excellent, compelling novel.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn

    This is a beautifully written book. Although quiet in its telling of a life lived by a famous Chinese singer who leaves China for the US to escape what he fears will be increasing control of his career and life by the Chinese government, it is an incredibly powerful book. Once I started it, I couldn’t stop reading. It is very moving in it’s straightforward narrative. Ha Jin is an extraordinary author.

  16. 4 out of 5

    James

    Extremely sloppy compared to the other books I’ve read from him, but also much more tender and optimistic. There’s something appealing about the sentimentality and love of the good old USA in this book, but also something that badly needs an editor.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Exceptional story that —within Ha Jin’s usual frame of the Chinese diaspora —is a powerful testament to the power of freedom, and its impact on creativity. Ha Jin, as usual, is merciless towards the Communist state, and never shies from revealing its moral bankruptcy as it stifles, threatens and slurs an exiled singer who has found his voice in Boston. Within all of this is a simple and moving love story.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Angie Gazdziak

    Solid 2.0. A lot was lost between the Chinese to English translation, I think, and there are a few jokes that didn't fully translate. I read one review that raved about the subtle satire of the novel, but I didn't pick up on any satire. It may have been there, but ultimately it felt like you could read it as anti-Chinese propaganda or a very dry, plodding novel. Solid 2.0. A lot was lost between the Chinese to English translation, I think, and there are a few jokes that didn't fully translate. I read one review that raved about the subtle satire of the novel, but I didn't pick up on any satire. It may have been there, but ultimately it felt like you could read it as anti-Chinese propaganda or a very dry, plodding novel.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I appreciated the author’s ability to articulate the tensions between freedom and security with an emphasis on how these things are not mutually exclusive. The novel was disjointed at times, weirdly detailed about things that didn’t seem that significant and a little thin where I wanted more.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    What defines who you are? I've played piano for most of my life, studied music through two college degrees, and have worked as a professional musician. My love and understanding of music are intimately intertwined with my lived experience and have helped to shape me into the person I am today. There came a point in my life, however, when I had to learn that it was okay for me to separate myself from that art. By its very nature, art can be all-consuming, a 24/7 obsession that can be easy to lose What defines who you are? I've played piano for most of my life, studied music through two college degrees, and have worked as a professional musician. My love and understanding of music are intimately intertwined with my lived experience and have helped to shape me into the person I am today. There came a point in my life, however, when I had to learn that it was okay for me to separate myself from that art. By its very nature, art can be all-consuming, a 24/7 obsession that can be easy to lose yourself in. I am lucky to have found a balance in my life in which I know that being a musician is only part of who I am. It doesn't define the entirety of my being. Instead, I know that my life is a rich tapestry of the things I've done, the passions I've uncovered, and the people with whom I surround myself. Condensing the richness of that life into a single label does a disservice in defining the person I am. In A Song Everlasting author Ha Jin grapples with the mystery of defining a person through the intimate portrait of one man. Yao Tian is an acclaimed Chinese singer who is revered in his country as a brilliant artist and loyal patriot. Tian has built quite the life for himself, his wife, and their daughter. He approaches his art with the same duty with which he honors his country, a duty that drives him to sing nationalist songs and tour with the national choir. His traditional upbringing and culture also bind him to another kind of duty, the duty of being the patriarch of his small family. Tian has a comfortable life, but he's eager for more. Not more for himself, but for enough money to provide his daughter with the best college education possible. It is in this desire that Tian begins to lose himself and threaten all of the things that define him. On a trip to New York with the Chinese choir, things begin to unravel. Tian accepts an extra gig for a generous cash payout. He knows the money will help with his daughter's tuition. Plus, the event is advertised as a celebration of unity between China and Taiwan, a cause that Tian believes aligns with the priorities of his country. But as he attempts to return home, Tian is startled to learn that he's been fired from the choir and blacklisted by the very government that he's dutifully served. It turns out that the organizers of the private event he sang at are actually supporters of Taiwan's secession. In an instant, everything that has ever defined Tian is taken away from him. He is stuck in a foreign country with no feasible path back home. He has lost the career that defined him and worst abandoned his family. Now he'll have to carve out a new path, learning more about himself and what truly makes up a man in the process. I was drawn to A Song Everlasting by the summary that the publisher provided when they offered me a copy to review. I was instantly connected to the idea of a musician losing the means to a career that defined him. What I didn't expect was how deeply moved I would become by his story. Ha Jin writes with utilitarian ease that could be misconstrued as sparse. I found, however, that his words work in service to the story, disappearing from thought to allow the reader to focus more on the life that is being portrayed. In fact, I often found myself forgetting that I was reading a work of fiction at all, completely invested in the man and his situation. A Song Everlasting challenges definitions of tradition and duty and instead finds vibrance in the plainness of everyday life. Like a song itself, the book works not in a singular moment or event, but through the combination of its various characters, moments, and emotions. I left the novel stunned by the ideas that it contained, awed by the very splendor of its simplicity.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    The author is a Chinese-American. Like our protagonist, he spent his youth and young adult years in China and then came to the U.S. as a student, and now teaches at a university. There is quite a bit that feels autobiographical about this novel about an artist man who came to the U.S. and experienced strong culture clashes. Tian is a singer who was very popular in China, but now must dabble at singing gigs in the U.S. This however is not the point of this literary tale. Tian's experience highligh The author is a Chinese-American. Like our protagonist, he spent his youth and young adult years in China and then came to the U.S. as a student, and now teaches at a university. There is quite a bit that feels autobiographical about this novel about an artist man who came to the U.S. and experienced strong culture clashes. Tian is a singer who was very popular in China, but now must dabble at singing gigs in the U.S. This however is not the point of this literary tale. Tian's experience highlights the many difficulties of immigration and visa, families living far apart for long periods of time, obligations of children to their parents, major changes in income, and just plain loneliness. These are the personal issues Tian is dealing with, but this is also a political story. There is much bureaucracy between the two governments. China block's Tian's success at every turn. In this day of the Internet, he is followed and his image is shaped by what is reported. Tian is determined to serve his art and will not be deterred, but the roadblocks are tremendous and there questions of his own safety. This is a slow read featuring a character who ultimately overcomes the numerous roadblocks and red tape, which may be a tad unrealistic in real life. But it provides a lot of insight into Chinese culture, immigration experiences, and the value and meaning of art.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    A Song Everlasting is Ha Jin's subdued tale of a popular Chinese singer turned unexpected dissident. While on tour with a state-sponsored musical troupe, Tian is approached to perform in a private event. Unbeknownst to him, the event is sponsored by a pro-Taiwan group, and Tian is plunged into bureaucratic dangers. He faces denouncement and loss of his passport and his position. He and his wife decide that for him to remain safe, he should take refuge in the United States. Tian's life in the U.S A Song Everlasting is Ha Jin's subdued tale of a popular Chinese singer turned unexpected dissident. While on tour with a state-sponsored musical troupe, Tian is approached to perform in a private event. Unbeknownst to him, the event is sponsored by a pro-Taiwan group, and Tian is plunged into bureaucratic dangers. He faces denouncement and loss of his passport and his position. He and his wife decide that for him to remain safe, he should take refuge in the United States. Tian's life in the U.S. is difficult. He has limited opportunities to perform, and what chances he does have are stymied by the Chinese government and the media it quietly backs. While the corruption and coercion of the government serves as a backdrop for this novel, the forefront is consumed with Tian's struggles for life in America to achieve personal and professional freedom and to survive in a country with few restrictions, but few supports as well. Tian navigates his way through a multitude of problems, including financial troubles, marital strife, and a near-disastrous health scare to navigate his way in this new world, ultimately finding a home amongst a small circle of friends and family. Very moving and understated, and ultimately uplifting.

  23. 4 out of 5

    DearBookClub

    Harry Hong makes Tian an offer he can't refuse. Can popular singer Tian stop performing music in the United States, for the right price? Backstory: Yai Tian, an opera singer, travels to the United States from Beijing, China, to perform at some venues. Han Yabin, now settled in America, offers Tian $4,000 to sing at an upcoming festival celebrating Taiwan’s National Day. Tian's performance undermines China's grand propaganda plan. Due to Chinese politics, the government doesn't support Taiwanese off Harry Hong makes Tian an offer he can't refuse. Can popular singer Tian stop performing music in the United States, for the right price? Backstory: Yai Tian, an opera singer, travels to the United States from Beijing, China, to perform at some venues. Han Yabin, now settled in America, offers Tian $4,000 to sing at an upcoming festival celebrating Taiwan’s National Day. Tian's performance undermines China's grand propaganda plan. Due to Chinese politics, the government doesn't support Taiwanese officials looking to separate themselves and become independent of China. Once he returns to China, he is reprimanded for consorting with anti-China activists and his passport will be taken away by government officers. So he does what anyone would do. He runs for his life and flees back to the United States. Moving On: Once in the United States Tian suffers many tragedies as he works towards becoming a U.S., citizen. The author, Ha Jin, takes the reader in and writes characters that are close to the reader's heart. The style in which he writes his story is very detailed and pleasant. I enjoyed being introduced to Chinese customs, culture, and history. At times, certain portions of the story was wordy (336 pages) but the overall story was enticing.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    This is an International story about a young man who comes to the US as an entertainer, but takes a private gig in NY for extra cash for his daughter's tuition fund. On his return to China, he is informed that the sponsors of the event were supporters of Taiwan's succession and that he must deliver a formal self-criticism. When he is asked to forfeit his passport to his employer, Tien impulsively decides instead to return to New York to protest the government's threat to his artistic integrity. h This is an International story about a young man who comes to the US as an entertainer, but takes a private gig in NY for extra cash for his daughter's tuition fund. On his return to China, he is informed that the sponsors of the event were supporters of Taiwan's succession and that he must deliver a formal self-criticism. When he is asked to forfeit his passport to his employer, Tien impulsively decides instead to return to New York to protest the government's threat to his artistic integrity. his career begins to fluorish in the US but soon he is placed on a Chinese blacklist and it becomes clear he cannot return to China. This is an immigrant story at heart with strong political tones. Tien's wife remains in China with his daughter and they speak to each other by telephone as well as email. This is a more elaborate story than most of the romance stories I have been reading. The author himself is an immigrant from China who moved to the US to attend Brandeis University. His own immigration informs his stories.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Vansa

    This is a lovely, moving story of an unwilling Chinese defector, and his attempts to make a life in the USA. Yao Tian, a famous CHinese singer, finds himself out of favour with the ruling dispensation. In a misguided attempt to call their bluff, Yao leaves China for America, expecting that to be a temporary move till he manages to regain favour. The best laid plans of mice and men, however, gang aft agley, and it's not different for him. The book explores the paths his life takes, his loneliness This is a lovely, moving story of an unwilling Chinese defector, and his attempts to make a life in the USA. Yao Tian, a famous CHinese singer, finds himself out of favour with the ruling dispensation. In a misguided attempt to call their bluff, Yao leaves China for America, expecting that to be a temporary move till he manages to regain favour. The best laid plans of mice and men, however, gang aft agley, and it's not different for him. The book explores the paths his life takes, his loneliness at being away from his wife and daughter, who can't move to be with him because his wife has a flourishing career as a lecturer, which she'll have to give up if she migrates. Ha Jin depicts the control exerted by the Chinese government starkly- from Yao's sister's persecution because of her adherence to Falun Gong, the revocation of Yao's passport in a petty attempt to assert power, and several other ways defectors' lives are made difficult-Ha Jin depicts the Chinese state's tentacles spreading far and wide, in insidious ways-Yao's fledgling music classes are disrupted by state agents issuing orders to other Chinese immigrants, to stay away from him, and he has to take up a job working construction instead. Yao is very clear-sighted about his position of relative privilege, and all the help he gets from friends and admirers of his to make a living. Throughout the book, though, Ha Jin never fails to emphasize the importance of standing up for the right thing, when you're in a position to do so-there's a poignant chapter where Yao's among the few at a memorial for the victims of the TIananmen Square killings, when it would have been easy for him to remain indifferent. Given how increasingly controlling many governments are, it's easy to turn a blind eye to things that don't directly affect you, which makes those who don't all the more commendable. I found the book very real, in its depiction of how difficult it is for Yao to access healthcare, till he's informed of his eligibility for ROmneycare-this seems like Ha Jin's way of emphasizing the importance of affordable healthcare while making it organic to the plot! The best part of the book, for me, was its realistic depiction of cancer-most boks where a character has cancer usually have the character dying, and there are very few that depict how hard it is to battle it and survive, the toll it takes on caregivers, the importance (and difficulty) of an empathetic oncologist. The book's absolutely excellent in that section, and what's more important, Yao survives to fight another day. I'm knocking off one star for the one-note depiction of women-either subservient and perfect, or ambitious shrews. While the writing and the plot are beautiful, some of the conversations are stilted. However, the ending was beautiful, and moving, and had me smiling through my tears. This is a deeply rewarding read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nelda Brangwin

    Ha Jin brings his lean insightful writing to the story of a Chinese singer who comes to the United States. He’s known for his dissent about the Chinese government and eventually Tian has his Chinese passport revoked and he is in a no-man’s land, waiting for his seven year US residency to end so he can become a naturalized American citizen. He can’t leave America. His wife and teenage daughter remain in China, and the physical distance between husband and wife help lead to an emotional disengagem Ha Jin brings his lean insightful writing to the story of a Chinese singer who comes to the United States. He’s known for his dissent about the Chinese government and eventually Tian has his Chinese passport revoked and he is in a no-man’s land, waiting for his seven year US residency to end so he can become a naturalized American citizen. He can’t leave America. His wife and teenage daughter remain in China, and the physical distance between husband and wife help lead to an emotional disengagement between husband and wife. The feeling of powerlessness pervades the story. Tian leaves New York City for Boston when he works in house building to supplement the meager income he makes from singing. While the story meanders at times, Ha Jin’s ability to pull out the true essence of characters shines through making Tian and the other characters, people with whom the reader can sympathize.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Several remarkably naive decisions change the life of Yao Tian, a talented Chinese singer. Ha Jin uses this often slow novel to explore the separation of a family and of expectations. Jian, faced with loss of the ability to travel as punishment for his performance in the US at a private party hosted by supporters of Taiwan, opts to leave China altogether, leaving behind his wife and daughter. HIs life, so full of promise, devolves over the next seven years as he finds himself working as a labore Several remarkably naive decisions change the life of Yao Tian, a talented Chinese singer. Ha Jin uses this often slow novel to explore the separation of a family and of expectations. Jian, faced with loss of the ability to travel as punishment for his performance in the US at a private party hosted by supporters of Taiwan, opts to leave China altogether, leaving behind his wife and daughter. HIs life, so full of promise, devolves over the next seven years as he finds himself working as a laborer rather than singing to support himself. But it's also a journey of self discovery as well as political understanding with a positive message about the freedom of life in the US. Thanks to netgalley for the ARC. Ha Jin has explored these themes before but the character is unique. A good entree for those who have not read his previous novels.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jill Dobbe

    I enjoyed this unique story of Tian, a Chinese musician, who leaves his family in China to move to the U.S., hoping to continue his musical career on his own terms. The Chinese government considered him an outcast or defector and opposed him at every turn. His career stalled somewhat, but he was happy to be free in the U.S. to live his own life and plan his own singing career. It was interesting to read how the Chinese government felt about Chinese citizens who moved to the U.S. and how they fare I enjoyed this unique story of Tian, a Chinese musician, who leaves his family in China to move to the U.S., hoping to continue his musical career on his own terms. The Chinese government considered him an outcast or defector and opposed him at every turn. His career stalled somewhat, but he was happy to be free in the U.S. to live his own life and plan his own singing career. It was interesting to read how the Chinese government felt about Chinese citizens who moved to the U.S. and how they fared while living there. Living in China under Chinese rules with an oppressive government is a difficult life. Tian believed in staying true to his music, beliefs, and freedoms and found that he could do that while living outside of his homeland. Thank you, Ha Jin, publisher, and Netgalley, for this ARC.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Yao Tian is a very popular singer in China. He's at the end of a US tour when a friend invites him to extend his stay a few days to sign at an event. He returns to China to find out he has angered the government because he extended his trip. So he quickly flies back to the US thinking he will wait until things die down and go back to China. However, things do not go as planned, and he becomes blacklisted by China and is not allowed to come back. His wife and daughter are still in China, so he fe Yao Tian is a very popular singer in China. He's at the end of a US tour when a friend invites him to extend his stay a few days to sign at an event. He returns to China to find out he has angered the government because he extended his trip. So he quickly flies back to the US thinking he will wait until things die down and go back to China. However, things do not go as planned, and he becomes blacklisted by China and is not allowed to come back. His wife and daughter are still in China, so he feels alone in a country he doesn't fully understand. It also doesn't help that the Chinese government has spies in the US, who seem to thwart him anytime he is making progress. A fictional look at what it's like to be an immigrant (written by someone who immigrated to the US from China) in the United States.

  30. 5 out of 5

    pugs

    i was captured by this story, a star singer in china deciding to stay in the u.s., for the sake of artistic freedom. 'a song everlasting' questions nationalism, loyalty, and what is worth giving up for the sense of freedom, that is, by american standards, without a safety net, where artists rarely are afforded the u.s. privilege of healthcare and home, which tian has to navigate through, instead of returning to china, needs largely met, and a great deal of popularity. it makes the reader questio i was captured by this story, a star singer in china deciding to stay in the u.s., for the sake of artistic freedom. 'a song everlasting' questions nationalism, loyalty, and what is worth giving up for the sense of freedom, that is, by american standards, without a safety net, where artists rarely are afforded the u.s. privilege of healthcare and home, which tian has to navigate through, instead of returning to china, needs largely met, and a great deal of popularity. it makes the reader question the personal vs. individualism. 'a song everlasting' is very much an immigrant story, but never comes off as overtly u.s. patriotic. it's also a starving artist tale, constant concern if tian is going to "make it big" or "make it" at all, and what does "making it" mean, how is it perceived by an artist vs. family or the public. i really enjoyed it.

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