The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin [in Library Journal]
When Fen Danlin first landed in New York to join his wife, Yan Haili, she delivered him to a “seedy” Chinatown inn with $500 and instructions to stay – alone – within walking distance of an arranged restaurant job. She returned the next day with divorce papers, leaving him sobbing.
Seven years later, Danlin is an online newspaper columnist known for his exposés revealing “the towering corruption of Chinese politics and media.” He’s assigned to write about an upcoming “landmark novel” allegedly endorsed by George Bush, with multinational editions pending and Hollywood rights already sold. The author of this potboiler, which preys on 9/11 sentiment with headlines coinciding a week before the tragedy’s fifth anniversary, is Danlin’s ex-wife.
Danlin’s boss insists that any conflict of interest is outweighed by this “bunch of scumbags” whose public relations scheme must be disclosed. Unmasking Haili’s lousy writing and bloated mendacity pits Danlin against China’s unforgiving power elite; at stake are his career, his relationships, even his safety.
Verdict: National Book Award-winning Ha Jin uses sly, black humor to underscore the high price of integrity, the consequences of betrayal, and the power of the written word. Jin’s latest should cross multiple genres and is especially timely for an election year.