Classic: Grapes of Wrath
We have our internet service back!! Hoo-ray!! Thanks everyone for hanging in with me. Finally, here’s my review of a great classic.
Publisher: The Viking Press, 1939
Awards Won: National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and cited when Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962
Genre: Classic Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook, Dylan Baker – Reader
My Rating: B+
The members of my book club have fallen in love with John Steinbeck. We can’t get enough of him although we are getting close to doing that. His books always give us so much to talk about. Grapes of Wrath was jam-packed with discussion topics. In addition, Steinbeck’s beautiful way with words was so satisfying, even if the story was a sad one.
My club’s members are all of an age that we have heard stories about the late 1920s and 30s from our parents and grandparents. I certainly recall tales of the Depression-era’s hard times, and my husband’s family related stories of the great dust storms in Kansas. It seems like a part of our family’s history.
When Grapes of Wrath opens with the description of small-town and rural Oklahoma, it didn’t seem foreign at all. I could easily “see” the countryside and “hear” the voices of the Joad family.
As the story begins, the family is preparing to move to California. They have seen handbills advertising plenty of good jobs available there. This is good news for the hard-working Joad family. They have been evicted from their 40 acre tenant farm and have nowhere else to go, nor are there any jobs available anywhere in their area.
It’s heart-breking but the family has sold or given away nearly all their possessions in order to fund the trip. They have about $150, lots of salt pork and potatoes, and seven people to load into their make-shift vehicle. Fortunately, two of the grown sons are good at repairing vehicles.
The people they meet and the places they stay along the famous Route 66 is the most interesting part of the book. It’s an excellent snapshot of this time period in our country’s life. Although the Joad family is extremely poor they have their own standards of behavior. Cleanliness is important as is modesty, good manners and the willingness to befriend strangers.
California was not what the Joad family was expecting. Jobs were not plentiful and it was a fight just to keep from starving. In addition, the family learned they were “Oakies” and considered the scum of the earth.
The story does not end with a happy-ever-after. In spite of that, I highly recommend Grapes of Wrath to you. Most of the characters are so well developed, you’ll swear you’ve met them. Steinbeck also alternates the story of the Joad family with chapters devoted to other things happening at the time. For instance, there is a beautiful chapter on Route 66 that reads like poetry. Another chapter that sticks in my memory is of a small town diner and the patrons that pass through it. It’s amazing literature.
Overall, Grapes of Wrath is a look at the determination of human nature to survive and do well, no matter what it takes. It’s as relevent today as it was in the 1930s.