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No Certain Home Paperback – April 1, 2016
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The background canvases of America at the beginning of the twentieth century, and later, China in the 1930’s, are beautifully painted, but the focus of the book is Agnes’ life-long journey of self-discovery.
From a dirt-poor childhood in the Midwest, to New York and later Berlin, working toward British India’s liberation, she becomes the journalist she had dreamed of becoming. But her relations with a patriarchal world and with men on a personal basis remain difficult.
It is only in 1937, in the caves of northwest China where the Communists take refuge at the end of the Long March, that she feels truly at home.
During her last year in China she meets US Marine Captain Evans Carlson, a man she feels can be her ‘great companion’, lover, perhaps even husband. But after returning to the United States this relationship disintegrates, leaving Agnes once again alone in the world.
Her difficult adjustment to post-WWII American society is made more difficult by FBI harassment of her for being an outspoken supporter of the Communist Chinese revolution. She emigrates to Britain, but her health is failing, and in 1950 she dies, alone and mostly forgotten.
Marlene Lee’s description of the life of Agnes Smedley is an eloquently told saga about an amazing woman.
A wonderful book.