The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck I read this as a teenager, and really enjoyed reading it again last week. There were several things in the book that I have been thinking about ever since.
#1 - O-lan's hard work. In the first days of their marriage, she cleaned the house from top to bottom, mended clothing and bedding (killing the bugs that lived there), and then joined her husband working in the fields. When she had her babies, she only stopped work just long enough to go inside, give birth alone, and clean up before heading back outside to work, then fixed a hot meal for dinner.
#2 The oldest son gets an attitude and Wang Lung, the father, doesn't know what to do with him. He never felt like that as a young man, so why is his son acting so rude? O-lan tells her husband that this kind of thing only happens to wealthy young men, and that most wealthy families would give the son a slave and the problems would go away. I think it is interesting that Buck attributes teenage angst with wealth and ease...
#3 The book that I read came with some discussion notes, and one of the questions was: Was Wang Lung happier before or after he became a wealthy man? I don't know. In the beginning of the book, he had to work so hard to just stay alive, and one bad season could result in the death of his family. But there was no peace in his home when he became a wealthy man. Having money lead to all sorts of trouble, not just the nicer home and lovely gardens. So, I don't know about Wang Lung, but O-lan was definitely happier before the money.
#4 I feel so removed from food production, that it just blows me away to think about growing each and every bite of food to sustain our family. I cannot comprehend how it could be done. How much land would it take? What are the bare necessities? I know that people still do this, but, I'm sad to say, it seems so hard and strange to me. And who grows all the wheat that is magically turned into the goldfish crackers and wheat thins that I buy at the store? And are we really the lucky ones?
Digging to America by Anne Tyler was a fun read about two families adopting babies from Korea. They become unlikely friends as the girls grow up. It was an interesting look at America through the eyes of recent immigrants.
So, what are you reading?