Book Review: The Good Earth

The Good Earth 

by Pearl S. Buck

Published by Washington Square Press 1931

357 pages

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This book had a slow, but fascinating start. We are introduced initially to two characters, but I could almost argue four. First we have Wang Lung, the protagonist, and his father living poorly in a small farmhouse in China. And then, from the first pages of this book we learn how sacred the water and the land are – not just Wang Lung, but all the people of the village. They take on such importance I would even argue that Land and Water are characters of their own.

This is possibly my favorite part of the novel, the way the land rises up and takes precedence over everything. The land grows and evolves just like Wang Lung and his family. If not for the Land and the Waters, Wang Lung would not have his success, which is what drives the novel. In many cases, Wang Lung seems to understand his connection to the land is one of flesh and blood.

This book is mostly about character development rather than plot development, which means it can be a slower read to some, but it’s certainly not without action. The Good Earth is the story of Wang Lung and his wife O-Lin. They are humble servants of the gods and the Earth until Wang Lung finds wealth, from some small theft, but mostly his own intuitions. Wang Lung is one of the most fully developed characters I’ve come across in fiction. He’s a man you admire for his strength in spirit and his insightfulness, and yet as he is granted success and wealth for his hard work, he is tempted by new, worse things and becomes a man you absolutely hate at times. His life story is so compelling and despite his mistakes you praise him for his endless pursuits, his hard-work, and his ability to reflect on his own rise and fall.

Rise and fall. Here we have a major theme of the novel. The rains rose and flooded the earth, drought came and starved the people, and still the beans and the wheat would grow. Lung and his family would harvest when they could and they begged when they needed to, but not without doing the work that could be done. Even if it broke Wang Lung’s back, he would do the work. And then there was the rise and fall of the wealthy. The house of Hwang, which was once a symbol of wealth in the village, fell and the lords and ladies died, princes had to sell the land and the house belonged to beggars. That is until Wang Lung bought the house and reestablished a place for prosperity. I was very fascinated with the ideas of cycles in this story, and how each time a new cycle would begin, it somehow evolved itself into a larger, more complex one than the last. The Earth cycled in fertility. Wang Lung cycled his hope and despair. The first daughter was an evil omen and then his favorite child. The rich and the poor cycled out leaders. Wang Lung was constantly shouting for peace in his household and then finding it. Readers are constantly reminded of the good and the bad and how they’ve come to rely on each other.

This book is a very unique look at pre-revolutionary China, and yet its difficult not to connections to today. They say history repeats itself.

It was funny how everything fit together in a harmonious connection, and when it was going poorly for one man, he blamed the gods. Just as Wang Lung cursed the gods for the drought. And then one day it was as though no god could challenge his wealth and he no longer needed them. He had gained control of his estate, and yet his family was lost to him. He hardly knew each of his children. Pearl S. Buck wove a brilliant story with complexities that will leave the reader pondering long after the book is finished.

I could go on and on and on about the things I loved in this book, but at some point I have to tell you its time to go read it for yourself. I’d love to hear any thoughts you had on it. It’s a Pulitzer winner, so make sure that if you haven’t read it, it gets on the top of your to-read list (because I know its probably 200 books deep).

I give The Good Earth a five out of five stars

5 Stars

 

 

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Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars (Audiobook Version)

Written by E. Lockhart

Narrated by: Ariadne Meyers

Published 2014 by Random House

Runtime: 06:26:33

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

My Review:

I listened to the audiobook version of We Were Liars, narrated by Ariadne Meyers. I really enjoyed this as an audiobook since it was simple to follow and Meyers did a great job with voices.

We Were Liars is a stunning tale of friends who only know each other on the island their wealthy families own. The island is a paradise, and in its description it’s hard not to believe just that. But as the synopsis will suggest, there is ALWAYS trouble in paradise.

The plot was slow to form, but it is clear early on that there is something horrible about the Sinclairs. It’s nothing shocking honestly. The family is filthy rich and battles for inheritance become threat to the threads that hold the family together. But that’s not what this story is about. It was an entertaining part of the novel and in many ways I thought it was going to play a bigger picture in the story. No, this story is about the children. What happens to the kids of a broken, wealthy family?

Drunk on power and the realization of the lack thereof, this novel is a roller-coaster of hope and failure. There is pain that no one talks about and the healing is slow. I was fascinated by the characters in this book. The liars, each beautiful and terrible in their own ways. Not that you can blame them. And then you have the aunts and their constant bickering, and grandad and his dementia. Lockhart creates a family portrait that intrigues readers. All set in the picture-perfect setting of their private island.

Amidst the bickering, there is also romance. I was less impressed with the romance. Of course Lockhart’s teenage love was much more realistic than many other young adult novels.The love felt shallow and constricted although I think we were supposed to believe it was more than that.

As I mentioned above, I thought the novel was a bit slow moving. With a lot of focus on Cadence’s self-pity. It was all worth it in the end when the reader finally understands everything. There is genuine horror in this novel. I was shocked so much that my mind was reeling my entire shift at work. I had the fortunate experience of finishing the book moments before my shift started. It really messed with my head.

I don’t want to give away anything, so all I can say is that I loved the conclusion of this novel. It was a harsh pull back to reality. I highly recommend this book!

4 stars (2)

I give We Were Liars by E. Lockhart a 4 out of 5 stars