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Buck’s Good Earth Goes Home

PERKASIE, Pa. (AP) — The long-lost handwritten manuscript of Pearl S. Buck’s classic novel “The Good Earth” is set to go on display next month at the late author’s home outside Philadelphia.

The Pearl S. Buck House, in Hilltown Township, will display the 400 hand-edited pages for six months, beginning March 3.

It will be the first time since May 1930 that the manuscript will be reunited with the desk, chair and typewriter that Buck used when she wrote the novel, said Donna Rhodes, a curator at Buck’s home.

The manuscript had been missing for about 40 years when it was found in June 2007. The daughter of Buck’s longtime secretary said she found the pages in a suitcase in her basement and took them to a Philadelphia auction house, which called the FBI.

The manuscript has spawned a legal fight involving Buck’s heirs and foundations with links to her. A lawyer representing Buck’s birthplace in Hillsboro, W.Va., also staked a claim for ownership based on a notarized “bill of sale” that Buck signed in 1970, three years before she died.

Janet Mintzer, president of Pearl S. Buck International, said a will filed in Vermont, where the author died, gave the Buck family estate rights to her literary works, but that the family didn’t want to lend out the manuscript until the matter was settled.

The Buck family trust has formed an agreement with Pearl S. Buck International to display the manuscript for six months. The foundation maintains Buck’s home and manages its international adoptions program.

“We’ve been waiting literally a year and a half for it,” Mintzer said. “We’re very excited. It’s a great piece of history.”

“The Good Earth,” Buck’s most famous book, follows the life of a peasant farmer in pre-Revolutionary China as he marries, accumulates wealth and experiences both success and heartache. Buck, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, lived mostly in China from infancy through age 40.

The novel won the Pulitzer Price in 1932 and helped earn Buck the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.

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