Book Review — Fighting Angel, Portrait of a Soul, by Pearl S. Buck

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The Fighting AngelThe Fighting Angel by Pearl S. Buck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found Fighting Angel to be a profoundly touching and deeply moving book by Pearl S. Buck, about her father. From other reviews on GoodReads, I see that she also wrote one about her mother, called The Exile. I’m going to have to track that one down, and read it as well.

Part biography, part character sketch, this book covers the life of her father, Andrew, as he grew up, left his family farm, and came to China as a missionary. He spent the rest of his life in China, except for a few short furloughs home, and made it through several revolutions with a child-like serenity.

As I was reading, I kept wondering if Andrew had what would today be labeled as “Asperger’s Syndrome”. Obviously, if he were, he was very high functioning, and would have been seen as merely eccentric. Such things, as the fact that the notion of marrying would probably never would have even entered his head, if his mother hadn’t said she’d only bless him going out as a missionary unless he did.

Or another story, which seemed to be typical of how he viewed things. Someone had donated a great deal of money, in remembrance of his wife, for Andrew’s mission to build a chapel. But Andrew didn’t need a chapel at that point, he needed a boat. So he bought one, never considering whether the person who donated the money would want his wife memorialized that way or not.

Over all, he had much more success dealing with the Chinese people than he did with his fellow missionaries, though how many of the converts he made were true, deep conversions is left doubtful.

I was left with the impression that Pearl, though she loved and respected her father, didn’t really like him too much.

(One final note: I got this book through Google Books via B&N. It was an OCRed copy, apparently without being edited after it was scanned. I showed my husband one short paragraph which had the word “tell” come out as “teU”, “Carie” (Pearl’s mother’s name) as “Cane”, and at least two more scanning errors. This continued through the whole book. I don’t know if Gutenburg has this book yet or not, but I’d suggest trying to get it there before looking at Google Books.)

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