A typical rags to riches story. But don't get this the wrong way. This Pulitzer Prize Winner has a very compelling storyline that's a page turner, and unforgettable characters that are sympathetic, flawed and real.
Buck also depicted the Chinese culture and how they lived during those days (around the 19th century) quite accurately. Reading it almost felt like I was watching a Chinese drama series shot during that era (late 19 century or so) when infanticide, foot-binding and concubinage were common practices.
The Good Earth started with Wang Lung, a hard working farmer who married a slave called O-lan. She bore him 5 children, of which 3 are sons, 2 are daughters. Together, both of them pulled the family out of poverty and earned enough money to buy more lands. And soon, they became rich enough to buy over the House of Hwang, a family of wealthy landowners.
Also, this novel explored the complexities of human emotions and behaviours in all its characters. For example, at the time when Wang Lung was rich and successful, he came to know one of the women, known as Lotus, who worked at a teahouse. Eventhough he felt guilty pursuing her, he still went ahead with it and consoled himself by saying he deserved it as he is now a man of success and wealth, he shouldn't feel so contrite about it. Wang Lung is actually a man with a good heart, but he is also a man marred by his own weaknesses.
Best read when you have no other distractions because you'd get very annoyed when you have to put it down. Trust me. I speak from experience :P