Kirkus Star


Email this review


Ingratiating irreverence and a graceful, gamin turn of phrase for the childhood of a very young sinner under the portals of Presbyterianism. This was the mission of South Gate, five miles outside Shanghai, and along the Canal which lent an odoriferous allure to John's early years. Here, in episodes of an original and engaging nature, is the interplay of the missionary bent for correctness and correction -- and the unpredictable, unpersuaded heathen Chinese. He writes of how he -- and his older sister --routed some rough alley brats; of how they attended a Chinese kindergarten to emerge with an English (so-called Mandarin) Christmas carol; how they went through the daily rounds of recitation, confession, prayer (public and private); how ka, his first amah, a child of nature at 40, is finally undone by Calvinism; of the disillusion of America on the first visit; of Oo-zong, the coolie, whom the children trained for other and better positions; of Miss Cogdal, the school teacher, militant and unconventional, recalled in a poignant tribute. There is none of the obvious appeal of One Foot in Heaven, perhaps, but this book has more subtle, scampish charms, an intelligently interpreted Chinese setting, and delicate comedy, and fully deserves personal attention and word-of-mouth recommendation. .. Don't miss it.

Publisher: Knopf