A Map of Betrayal
by Ha Jin

Overview - A "Christian Science Monitor" Best Book of the Year
From the award-winning author of "Waiting" and "War Trash: " a riveting tale of espionage and conflicted loyalties that spans half a century in the entwined histories of two countries China and the United States and two families.

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More About A Map of Betrayal by Ha Jin
A "Christian Science Monitor" Best Book of the Year
From the award-winning author of "Waiting" and "War Trash: " a riveting tale of espionage and conflicted loyalties that spans half a century in the entwined histories of two countries China and the United States and two families.
When Lilian Shang, born and raised in America, discovers her father s diary after the death of her parents, she is shocked by the secrets it contains. She knew that her father, Gary, convicted decades ago of being a mole in the CIA, was the most important Chinese spy ever caught. But his diary, an astonishing chronicle of his journey as a Communist intelligence agent, reveals the pain and longing that his double life entailed and point to a hidden second family that he d left behind in China. As Lilian follows her father s trail back into the Chinese provinces, she begins to grasp the extent of his dilemma: he is a man torn between loyalty to his motherland and the love he came to feel for his adopted country. She sees how his sense of duty distorted his life, and as she starts to understand that Gary too had been betrayed, Lilian finds that it is up to her to prevent his tragedy from endangering yet another generation of Shangs.
A stunning portrait of a multinational family and an unflinching inquiry into the meaning of citizenship, patriotism, and home, "A Map of Betrayal" is a spy novel that only Ha Jin could write."

  • ISBN-13: 9780307911605
  • ISBN-10: 0307911608
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books
  • Publish Date: November 2014
  • Page Count: 280

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Espionage/Intrigue
Books > Fiction > Historical - General

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-08-25
  • Reviewer: Staff

From the National Book Award– and PEN/Faulkner-winning author Jin (Waiting) comes a woman’s inquisition into the limits of her father’s loyalty to his nation and family. The narrative alternates between the present day and the years spanning 1949 to 1989. In the present, American-born Lillian Shang unravels her father Gary’s mysterious life as a U.S.-based Chinese spy feeding information to the Mao administration. She pieces together his evolution from student, to spy, then prisoner—he ultimately ended up being a high-profile mole caught by the CIA. Lillian undertakes her research primarily through Gary’s extensive diaries, bequeathed to Lillian by his longtime mistress. Gary’s story is too messy for journalistic prose alone, so Lillian travels to northeast China to connect with his other family. In doing so, she sees the pervasive duplicity that defined Gary’s life abroad; his family members know little about what’s happened to him since leaving decades before. When Lillian’s husband is embroiled in a dubious microchip scheme with a newly acquainted Chinese cousin, the FBI materializes and Lillian must evaluate whether to respond with familial fidelity or self-preservation. Jin’s subtle prose entrances; he divulges information measuredly, almost reluctantly. The result is a captivating tale that probes the Chinese political state over the past half century. (Nov.)

BookPage Reviews

A father's hidden life

A Map of Betrayal, the new novel from the PEN/Faulkner-winning author Ha Jin (Waiting, Nanjing Requiem) is a haunting tale of two families and two countries that are linked together by the life of a single spy. When American-born professor of Asian Studies Lillian Shang inherits her father Gary’s journals, she uncovers details of his four-decade career as a spy for Communist China. But when history threatens to repeat itself in the next generation, Lillian must struggle with issues of loyalty and betrayal.

Using the diaries, Lillian follows her father from his early years as a secret agent working for Mao against the Nationalist army to his career as a U.S.-based spy feeding intelligence to China—but the most shocking revelation is that he left a wife and two children behind when he immigrated to the United States in 1950. Visiting the village where he once lived offers Lillian some understanding of her father’s choices and sheds light on the dynamics that shaped her own unhappy childhood. Gary’s first family was never told about his fate, nor did they ever benefit financially from his position. This triggers intense guilt over her own material advantages, and she thrusts herself into the personal lives of her newfound family—only to discover that her nephew, Ben, may be following in his grandfather’s footsteps.

The novel is told in chapters that alternate between Lillian’s present-day pursuit of her father’s story and Gary’s career from 1949 to his death in the late 1980s. Gary’s story, which is actually the more poignant of the two, is unfortunately occasionally rendered in a dense prose that reads like a textbook on American-Sino relations. Lillian’s chapters, however, reflect her aching personal sadness, and the novel closes with a delicate, ironic twist that one associates with the best of Jin’s fiction. A Map of Betrayal is the gripping story of a daughter coming to terms with her family history, set against a backdrop of political change.


This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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