Monday, October 1, 2012

The Small Woman by Alan Burgess

My 12-year old daughter, Rebecca, gives this synopsis of a marvelous biography she finished today:

Gladys Aylward wanted to be a Christian missionary in China (in the 1930's). She wanted to go so badly that she got a job as a parlor maid, even though she hated doing so. She opened an account at the train station to save money for a train ticket across Europe, through Russia, and finally to China. She took a boat, trains, buses and mules and finally got to Yangcheng. She stayed with Mrs. Jeannie Lawson who was a former missionary but loved China so much she got married there, had children there, and stayed there the rest of her life. Together with a Chinese cook, Yang, Gladys and Jeannie started the Inn of the Eighth Happiness. She became very good friends with a Mandarin who appointed her to be official foot inspector. She also adopted 5 children, but she took in many others. They all called her "Ai-wei-deh" which means "The Virtuous One." She stayed there until the Japanese came and bombed Yangcheng. She fled into the mountains with a hundred children to help them escape to Sian. She had almost no money and a little millet to eat. Their arduous journey was miraculous. She got very ill from her journey and never fully recovered.

Rebecca loved this book "because she had such a strong spirit, and believed so firmly and had such a lot of faith, and she...was a natural leader. She just helped out SO many people. It was just amazing. Even when she was ill, she helped the lepers. The fact that she could take care of 100 children saying "Are we there yet?" and "I'm so hungry" was amazing. Really moving."

This book was made into a beautiful movie starring Ingrid Bergman. It has some violent parts in it that I wouldn't recommend for young children. As usual, if you are choosing one over the other, the book is very much worth reading!

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