I picked up The Good Earth because it was being read by a book group I wanted to attend--an hour later I found myself 2/3 of the way through and somewhat breathless. I can't quite say it swept me off my feet, as it's too unassuming for that; but the smooth steady prose is rather like drifting for miles down a gentle river without realizing just how far you've gone. Chinese history is not a subject that's ever appealed greatly to me, and I certainly wouldn't have wanted to live in China at that time (or, really, at all), but as an acquaintance of mine said about the movie "Hotel Rwanda", 'It makes you realize that most people just want to live well and love their families and be left alone.' Wang Lung's love of the land and simple desire to prosper and provide for his family particularly resonate for me right now as I yearn to be away from this life-in-limbo, to be steward of my own good earth.
The book group discussion turned out to be excellent, surprising me pleasantly. After St. John's, I'm used to sitting through "discussions" that turn into lectures or Q&A, but the leader of this group came as close to a tutor as I've found outside of school. We had quite a lively conversation, and everyone was interested to hear from me that Pearl S. Buck actually wrote a trilogy. A friend gave me a copy years ago, and once I'd read the first one I couldn't stop--I had to find out what happened. Sons was not as good, but I quite enjoyed >A House Divided, as Wang Lung's grandson returns to a love of the earth.