Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Good Earth
   By Pearl S. Buck (Narrated by Anthony Heald)

Pearl Buck is the first American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Literature (1938).

PEARL S. BUCK (1893-1972)
PEARL S. BUCK (1893-1972)

“The Good Earth” is a fictional story of Wang Lung, his extended family, and O-lan, a house slave of a wealthy landowner that becomes Wang Lung’s wife.  A listener smells the fecundity of life in Anthony Heald’s narration of this master piece.

Wang Lung is a farmer in 1920’s China.  In the beginning of his story, farming is all he knows and he believes land (earth) is the source of all happiness.  He is betrothed by his aged father to a woman he has never seen.  The woman is to be his wife and his slave.  Wang Lung marries O-lan.  The family begins to prosper because O-lan bares male children, works the fields with Wang Lung, takes care of the grandfather, cooks, cleans, and becomes everything Wang Lung needs to concentrate on cultivation of his land.  The addition of O-lan and her labor create opportunity for Wang Lung to prosper.

However, famine strikes northern China and Wang Lung’s family moves to the south with plans to return to his farm when famine subsides.  Communism is rising, in part because of the growing gap between rich and poor, and the poor are mobilizing to take wealth from the rich.  Wang Lung and O-lan are swept up in the taking.  They return to the south with stolen gold, silver, and jewels. Wang Lung buys more land, and becomes one of the new rich.

Buck writes of life changes that occur in the Wang Lung family.  Wang Lung’s ever obedient, pragmatic wife loses her moral compass by killing her girl child at birth when famine is cruelly killing her other children. Wang Lung begins a fall from grace as he gets farther from working the earth.  He begins losing his moral compass with theft of another man’s riches.  The taking of his wife’s pearls for a concubine continues Wang Lung’s moral destruction.  One knows this story cannot end well.

Human tragedy comes in many forms.  All human beings travel different paths; make different decisions, bare different burdens, and die alone. Wang Lung and his family chose their path in their circumstance.  It is a highly believable human story.  It raises many questions about life; how one lives it and leaves it.

This is a fabulous audio book; beautifully narrated by Anthony Heald. [contact-form-7 id=”4427″ title=”What did you think about the review?”]


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