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Book Review: 'A Map Of Betrayal'


Most spy thrillers are about coldhearted people betraying one nation for another. But a new novel from Ha Jin was inspired by spy who, when he was caught, insisted he was looking out for two countries. Alan Cheuse has a review of "A Map Of Betrayal."

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Gary Shang - that's the name of the Chinese-born main character. He hails from the countryside, takes a wife there, but in 1949, he lands a job as a translator at an American cultural agency while, at the same time, he's recruited as a spy for the Chinese government. Rising with his American boss, he eventually emigrates to the U.S. and embeds in the CIA.

For number of decades, Shang regularly sends reports to his handler in China, even as he marries an American wife and makes a second family in the states. Chapters about Shang's early life alternate with others narrated by his American daughter, Lillian, as she uncovers deception upon deception after his death.

The book stands out for the way it straddles a number of worlds - China and the U.S., family life and adultery - and in Shang's case, the torturous inner life of a man torn between loyalty to two nations.

CORNISH: The book is "A Map Of Betrayal" by Ha Jin. It was reviewed by Alan Cheuse. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alan Cheuse
Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015. He had been in a car accident in California earlier in the month. He was 75. Listen to NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamburg's retrospective on his life and career.