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Extended Audio Sample A Free Life Audiobook, by Ha Jin Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,516 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Ha Jin Narrator: Jaeson Ma Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2007 ISBN: 9781482977295
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Meet the Wu family—father Nan, mother Pingping, and son Taotao. They are arranging to fully sever ties with China in the aftermath of the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square, and to begin a new, free life in the United States. At first, their future seems well-assured. But after the fallout from Tiananmen, Nan’s disillusionment turns him toward his first love, poetry. Leaving his studies, he takes on a variety of menial jobs as Pingping works for a wealthy widow as a cook and housekeeper. As Pingping and Taotao slowly adjust to American life, Nan still feels a strange attachment to his homeland, though he violently disagrees with Communist policy. But severing all ties—including his love for a woman who rejected him in his youth—proves to be more difficult than he could have ever imagined.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Exquisite and resonant…Jin has fashioned a ruminative, capacious, covertly ironic and quietly revealing tale of one family’s pursuit of the American Dream.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Striking…Jin’s language has ripened into something extraordinary.”

    The Washington Post

  • “A leisurely, generous tale…As vast and unbounded as the brave and overwhelming new world it describes.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Ha Jin writes of sacrifice, isolation, and valor with uncommon perception…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.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • A Free Life offers the greatest reward to those who read with patience and in quiet contemplation, absorbing the author’s passion for language.”

    Bookmarks Magazine

  • One of the 2007 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sylvia | 2/13/2014

    " I really enjoyed how this book focused on the everyday life of an immigrant coming to the states to make a life. Whereas a lot of Jin's books are pretty heady, it was interesting to watch him slow down an take the steps of building a life one by one. I think having a personal connection to the immigrant experience makes this book more interesting as well. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tama | 1/28/2014

    " Fillial devotion, desire, and the minutae of life... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Annie | 1/26/2014

    " This novel was a fascinating look at the immigration/assimilation experience from the perspective of a Chinese family. While I enjoyed the glimpse into another life, the story was somewhat dreary. The fact that I was reading it on a damp, windy day at the beach probably didn't do anything to make it less dreary. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rhonda | 1/16/2014

    " I love Ha Jin's books. Not only are they well written, with compelling, fully realized characters - I also learn a great deal about Chinese history, culture, and the immigrant experience. I listened to this book on CD. Overall the reader did an accomplished job of voicing a large number of disparate characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gina | 1/15/2014

    " A thoroughly engaging read about Chinese immigrant Nan and his life as an American, aspiring to be a poet. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Becky | 1/9/2014

    " A fictionalized account of Chinese Americans forging a life in his new country. I will look at immigrants in a more sympathetic way after reading this book. Some of the most basic things about life in the USA must be learned. For example, the main charactor's wife kept putting the flag up on the mailbox because she thought it was a way of being freindly to the mailman, until the mailman put a note in the box telling them not to let the kids mess with the mailbox. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tes | 1/1/2014

    " At first I could not get interested in this book, I simply didn't like Nan. But I wanted to see why it had gotten such good reviews. I'm glad I persevered! While I'm still not sure I like him, I did definitely care about him by the end. Heart-rending & life affirming. There's so much going on in this book: there's the immigrant struggle & then there's the poet's struggle -- Ha Jin tackles both of these themes articulately. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lorraine | 12/29/2013

    " The immigrant struggle of Nan Wu a Chinese Boston U graduate student post Tiananmen Massacre. He drops out of school and eventually opens a restaurant, but his one desire is to write poetry. Eventually he finds out what a FREE Life really is. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandra | 12/7/2013

    " Great immigrant story of a Chinese family who travel towards the American dream without leaving their heritage behind. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andy | 12/5/2013

    " Another reviewer put it best: reading Ha Jin is like reading English as a Second Language. Beautiful prose. Rich ethnic, immigrant storytelling. The writing is spare, but powerful. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Melanie | 12/3/2013

    " i thought that this book was very disappointing compared to Ha Jin's others, which I have loved so much. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ridie | 12/3/2013

    " I liked "Waiting" much more than this one by Ha Jin, whom I really like a lot, but I enjoyed this book very much. I felt a bit like it was one of those books, however, that just ends. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jenna | 11/23/2013

    " The most...quiet...book I have ever read. It unassumingly catches your attention and you don't realize just how good of a story it is until its over. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carol | 1/2/2013

    " I loved this book. Ha Jin gives a clear veiw into the complexity of Chinese American life and the immigrant experience. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Royce Houthuijzen | 6/10/2012

    " he is a genius...I really enjoyed this novel... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jo | 6/9/2012

    " Again, adjusting to life in America. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Juliana | 5/6/2012

    " A wonderful read. Anyone who has immigrated or is a first generation American can find themselves in these pages. A very thoughtful and true-to-life rendering. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbie | 1/11/2012

    " Listened to this on audio book and the reader was AMAZING! I enjoyed reading Waiting a long time ago and this one didn't disappoint either. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Eliszard | 4/29/2011

    " Worst Ha Jin's book I've ever read. Too bad, because the plot is not bad, and every now and then there are hints of what could have been a very good novel. I wonder if it's been edited at all. The language can be really bad, and the story needs to be cut down by at least a third... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Virginia | 3/21/2011

    " Ha Jin captures the essense of life in America. Seeing things through the screen of another culture is enlightening. I like Ha Jin's style and his ability to get the message across. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kikidee | 1/24/2011

    " I usually love Ha Jin's books but, for some reason, I found the protagonist of this one annoying at points. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Winx | 1/17/2011

    " I liked the story and the language (and some of the poems) :). However, I found that the text was too long and at times not contributing much to the story. The ending was long awaited and rewarding. I wish there was more about Nan's relationship with Taotao. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Richard | 12/10/2010

    " Ha Jin makes brave attempt to write in his non-native language. His characters are quite real and the protagonist is sympathetic, but ultimately predictable in giving in to his newly adopted culture. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Royce | 10/19/2010

    " he is a genius...I really enjoyed this novel... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Keely | 9/29/2010

    " Passionate clear writing about immigration, freedom, politics, poetry and Chinese food. Set in Boston and Atlanta. Fellow Atlantans-- you'll find yourself out on Buford Hwy trying to find the Golden Buddha and settling for Little Szechuan. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Charise | 8/16/2010

    " This book dealt with a Chinese immigrant family trying to make his way in a new land while simultaneously trying to deal with the baggage he left behind. Nan struggles to find his identity; vacillating between the country he was born in and the country he lives in now.
    "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rita | 8/4/2010

    " Author writes beautifully of the struggles of Chinese immigrants in this country. The lives of the characters are bittersweet, so well developed you feel as though you were personally sitting with them over tea listening to them reminisce as a friend might who has finally earned their trust "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Belle | 8/3/2010

    " Not my favorite of Jin's books, but very interesting, particularly all the details that seem at first to bog down the novel--the search for cheap housing, for example. A compelling look at what it takes (for some) and what it means to be a writer. "

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About the Author
Author Ha Jin

Ha Jin left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He is the author of eight novels, four story collections, a book of essays, and six books of poetry. He received the National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkner Awards, the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Asian American Literary Award, and the Flannery O’Connor Award, among others. His novel War Trash was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2014 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is director of the creative writing program at Boston University.

About the Narrator

Jaeson Ma is the son of two immigrant parents from China. A classically trained, New York-based theater actor who has appeared on Broadway, Off Broadway, and in numerous regional theaters, he has done extensive work in voice-over, specializing in Asian accents. He has provided voices for Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese subjects for such shows as ABC News, Primetime Live, and 20/20.