"The Good Earth" is set at the beginning of the 20th century in rural China. It's protagonist is a poor young farmer named Wang Lung, whose parents have arranged for him to marry a 20-year-old slave named O-lan.
Used to back-breaking work, O-lan makes a wife who aims to please her new husband in every way. He holds on to many of the traditions of the past, and particularly to the custom of foot binding. O-lan gives her husband a son and then another. By all practical accounts, Wang Lung should be happy and satisfied.
Over the years, the wealthy and powerful Hwang family, who had been O-lan's owners, experiences their own successes and failures. They spend far too much money and the wife is addicted to opium, another costly and decadent habit. To raise funds, they sell some of their lands to Wang Lung, whose wife has helped him manage their own household more wisely.
"The Good Earth" follows these two families over the coming years and decades and the listener is caught up in the characters, the epic events based on authentic historical events and in the timeless themes of greed, pride and the rise and fall of families, as well as the struggle to maintain time-honored traditions against an ever growing push to achieve in a modern world.
Pearl S. Buck was born in 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia. She spent her childhood in China with her missionary parents. Although she attended Randolph-Macon Woman's College in the United States, she returned to China and lived many more years with its people.
Buck wrote a number of novels, including East Wind, West Wind. Sons, and A House Divided. The Good Earth, published in 1931, was her second book.
The Good Earth spent many months on the New York Times Bestseller List, as well as other, best-seller lists. It earned Buck the Pulitzer Prize and the William Dean Howells Medal, in addition to a later Nobel Prize for Literature.
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This Pulitzer Prize–winning classic tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Nearby, the nobles of the House of Hwang consider themselves above the land and its workers, but they will soon meet their own downfall.
Hard times come upon Wang Lung and his family when flood and drought force them to seek work in the city. The working people riot, breaking into the homes of the rich and forcing them to flee. When Wang Lung shows mercy to one noble and is rewarded, he begins to rise in the world, even as the House of Hwang falls.