Unknown Pearl S. Buck Novel Discovered in Texas Self-Storage Unit

June 3, 2013 2
Unknown Pearl S. Buck Novel Discovered in Texas Self-Storage Unit

Forty years after Pearl S. Buck’s death, a new manuscript by the author has turned up in a Fort Worth, TX, self-storage unit. According to Open Road Integrated Media, the manuscript, “The Eternal Wonder,” will be published Oct. 22 in digital and paperback editions. The manuscript’s existence first was reported by The New York Times.

A coming-of-age story, “The Eternal Wonder” follows protagonist Randolph Colfax from New York, London and Paris to the border between North and South Korea, as Colfax endures hardship and eventually finds love.

Buck captured the hearts and minds of the Western world with her 1931 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Good Earth.” It sold more copies than any other novel in both 1931 and 1932.

Many have credited Buck with forever altering how Americans view Chinese laborers. Buck spent much of her early life in China with her parents, who were Presbyterian missionaries.

She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938, making her the first American woman to receive the honor.

An absurdly prolific writer, Buck wrote 44 novels, 30 nonfiction books, 242 short stories, 37 children’s books, 18 film and TV scripts, 500 articles and thousands of letters.

One of her children, Edgar S. Walsh, who manages her literary estate, jovially told NPR this month: “People often ask me, ‘Have you read everything your mother wrote?’ No, I have a few other things to do in my life.”

It’s unclear how “The Eternal Wonder” manuscript ended up in a Texas storage unit. According to Walsh, the document disappeared mysteriously in the 1970s from his mother’s house in Vermont. After a woman in Texas discovered “The Eternal Wonder” inside an unpaid storage unit, Walsh contacted Philadelphia attorney Peter Hearn, who in turn offered the woman a modest sum for the manuscript.

Set to be published 40 years after her death, “The Eternal Wonder” is Buck’s 44th novel. Amazingly, she wrote the 300-page story by hand while suffering from lung cancer at age 78.

In addition to her literary contributions, Buck was a well-known philanthropist. Long before Angelina Jolie, Buck brought awareness to the neglect of children in Third World countries. Buck started the first interracial adoption agency, created the Pearl S. Buck Foundation (now called Pearl S. Buck International) for international adoption, and financed several orphanages throughout Southeast Asia. Over the years, Buck herself adopted seven children.

By the time of her death in 1973, Buck was estranged from her children and the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, with both groups embroiled in legal battles over the rights to her works. A Vermont court settlement eventually gave literary rights to her children. If Walsh can get his siblings’ approval, he intends to sell the Buck collection to a university library.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

  • Craig

    “The Good Earth” sold more copies than any other book in the 20th century. [Citation need].
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books
    Unlikely that the book sold more than, you know “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.

    Nellie Bly is displeased by your fact-checking.

    • JohnDonegan

      Well played.

      According to The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Andrew Maykuth, “The Good Earth was the second-best selling novel of the 20th century, outsold only by Gone With the Wind.”

      After looking at your wikipedia page, I’m starting to think Maykuth was only considering “20th century novels penned by American women.”

      I will adjust accordingly. Thanks for reading!