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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Eternal Wonder by Pearl S. Buck


About the Book: A recently discovered novel written by Pearl S. Buck at the end of her life in 1973, The Eternal Wonder tells the coming-of-age story of Randolph Colfax (Rann for short), an extraordinarily gifted young man whose search for meaning and purpose leads him to New York, England, Paris, on a mission patrolling the DMZ in Korea that will change his life forever—and, ultimately, to love. Rann falls for the beautiful and equally brilliant Stephanie Kung, who lives in Paris with her Chinese father and has not seen her American mother since she abandoned the family when Stephanie was six years old. Both Rann and Stephanie yearn for a sense of genuine identity. Rann feels plagued by his voracious intellectual curiosity and strives to integrate his life of the mind with his experience in the world. Stephanie struggles to reconcile the Chinese part of herself with her American and French selves. Separated for long periods of time, their final reunion leads to a conclusion that even Rann, in all his hard-earned wisdom, could never have imagined. A moving and mesmerizing fictional exploration of the themes that meant so much to Pearl S. Buck in her life, this final work is perhaps her most personal and passionate, and will no doubt appeal to the millions of readers who have treasured her novels for generations.

"For he came to perceive that since people were his study, his teachers, the objects through which he could satisfy his persistent wonder about life itself, his own being among others, where he lived for the moment, there was his home." (page 154)

My Thoughts
     The Eternal Wonder by Pearl S. Buck (Open Road Integrated Media, Inc., 2013) is the story of finding one's purpose in life. The reader follows this pursuit through the eyes of Rann Colfax, from birth to young adult. For those that have read previous works by Buck, her ease of story telling is instantly recognized. As with The Good Earth, The Eternal Wonder is centered around a male character and Buck does a wonderful job with the perspective, bridging the divide between the sexes.
     Rann is a highly intellectual child and is a voracious reader. He has a constant need to learn and understand everything around him and is encouraged by his parents to seek the answers for himself, to always wonder. His intellect sets him apart from his peers and he often finds himself alone, and discovers that he is most comfortable in solitude.  "He was often exhausted by this mind of his from which he could find  no rest except in sleep, and even his sleep was brief, though deep. Sometimes his mind waked him by its own activity. He envisioned his brain as being separate from himself, a creature he must live with, an enchantment but also a burden." (page 96). 
     Following the death of his father who was his greatest mentor, Rann's confidence in his path begins to wain and he is unsure of what he continue to pursue. He begins to think that if he has a better understanding of himself, then he will know what he is meant to do with his life. This journey of self discovery takes him around the world as he begins to travel, learns about love, and then joins the military where he serves in Korea. His time in Korea introduces Rann to his desire and love of writing and his career inadvertently takes off from there. Buck seems to be addressing her own thoughts on how writing impacted her life and the success that she found through creative expression.
     Published posthumously, one has to question if she felt The Eternal Wonder was complete. The ending of the book seems to move to quickly in an attempt to tie up all of the lose ends and feels disjointed as the theme shifts to exploring ethnicity and culture. Perhaps the flow of the book is a reflection of life. When we are younger, we think the days are long and we can't wait to grow up and free ourselves of childhood. But as we become adults, the days feel much too short and time passes much too quickly. The Eternal Wonder is a reminder that we should follow our passions and not fear failure for if you are doing what you love, happiness will find its way to you.

** To read the introduction of this book or a brief bio of the author, visit my post on Book Beginnings here.

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

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