cover image The Eternal Wonder

The Eternal Wonder

Pearl S. Buck. Open Road, $16.99, (288p) ISBN 978-1-4804-3970-2

In this recently discovered manuscript published four decades after the author's death, Nobel-Prize winner Buck (The Good Earth) heaps such good fortune on her hero, famous novelist Randolph "Rann" Colfax, that conflict seems to be an afterthought. The only son of a college professor and his wife, Rann's exceptional intelligence is clear from the start. Buck lingers a bit too long in his precocious development, from the "private sea" of his mother's womb to the process of learning to read. After Rann passes college entrance exams at age 12, his father, George, enjoins him "to see the world" beyond Ohio, and dies of cancer shortly thereafter. The novel often avoids true complexity in favor of lofty perseveration on the subjects of science and art; however, certain moments of tension are evoked brilliantly. When Rann's professor, Donald Sharpe, makes a sexual overture, Rann's mother's response is one of unexpected compassion: "%E2%80%98He's in need of love where he can never find it.'" Rann travels to Brooklyn, where his grandfather invites him to move in; to England, where a widowed Lady hosts him in her castle; and to France, where he meets Chinese-American Stephanie Kung, whose father asks Rann to be his son-in-law. In spite of the seemingly global admiration, Rann does not always get what he wants. Buck's use of language is masterful, but the ending is somewhat abrupt compared to the rest of the novel%E2%80%94perhaps evident of its unpublished or unfinished nature. Moreover, the ease with which Buck's young protagonist goes through much of life overshadows the author's lustrous writing. (Oct.)