A Song Everlasting

Pantheon. Jul. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781524748791. $28. F
National Book Award winner Ha Jin (Waiting; Boat Rocker) delivers literary fiction that is character driven, and his novels and short stories focus almost exclusively on the interior thoughts of their protagonists. Here, he disentangles the existential crisis of Yao Tian, an outspoken Chinese singer who refuses to return to China for fear of political retribution. Separated from his family, Yao Tian stays in New York and attempts to retain his identity as a performer while creating a new home in the United States. The author’s ability to reframe the American dream through the perspective of an immigrant and political refugee is poignant. As his opportunities as a singer evaporate, Yao Tian finds himself taking on menial jobs and even busking in the subway. Each successive year puts more strain on his family ties back in China, and he must ultimately choose between his new life in the United States and a political system that he left behind.
VERDICT Some readers may not find the protagonist’s internal struggle compelling, but his story is written with heart and hope.
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