Early in the text, Buck comments that “except for a few incidents whose disaster I was able to accept” her life was “uneventfully happy.” She acknowledges that it was her good fortune to live in an eventful time in history and to have parents who were willing to take risks. Buck successfully translates the eventful and uneventful circumstances in her life for the benefit of the reader by using the familiar techniques of reminiscences and flashbacks. Buck is most interesting when she reveals the relationships that she had with the children and adults, both Chinese and American, with whom she interacted. The juxtaposition of past and present communicates the impact that growing up in China had on her.
Buck is successful in telling her own story and at the same time protecting the privacy of those closest to her. Her parents, husbands, and children are identified in My Several Worlds only by their relationship to her. As a result, the author maintains the focus on herself but clearly relates the importance of her family and of personal relationships. While those closest to her are unnamed, the Chinese figures in her life are all given names and Americans outside her immediate family are identified, so that the reader knows that she talked with Sinclair Lewis, Katharine Hepburn, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and many other famous individuals.
Buck occasionally reports conversations that she remembers, but for the most part, she tells her...
(The entire section is 539 words.)
Buck’s autobiography has appeal for those interested in what it is like to be an American growing up in a foreign culture, as more than one-third of My Several Worlds traces Buck’s life from birth to adulthood. The additional two-thirds reflects on the importance of an individual’s formative years. Those young people who wonder what becoming an adult is like and about an adult’s perspective of life will gain insight. The book has additional appeal because it is the story of one of the world’s great writers, as told in her own words. It is filled with references to her other works and becomes an annotated bibliography of her canon prior to 1953.
Stylistically challenging because of the juxtaposition of present and past, My Several Worlds has an unconventional literary style. This is an autobiography by a writer who enjoys telling her story and painting portraits of significant people in her life.
An abridged version of the book was created in 1957 for a younger audience and may appeal to those in the ten-to-thirteen age range. Yet, for young adults examining the complexity of life and trying to establish their philosophies of life and to reconcile childhood with adulthood, the unabridged version is preferred.