Tuesday, January 12, 2010

REVIEW: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath was my Pulitzer pick for the month of January and what a great way to start off the year!

Before this amazing novel, my previous experience with John Steinbeck's work was reading Of Mice and Men for my 10th grade literature class and not being able to get the phrase "an we're gonna live off the fat a' the lan'" out of my head. In Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck shows us the heartbreak and strife of one family struggling to survive after they lose their farm during the great american dust bowl of the 1930's. The Joad family consisting of Granpa, Granma, Ma, Pa, Uncle John, Noah, Rose of Sharon, her husband Connie, Ruthie, Winfield, and Tom decide to strike out for California after the bank takes over their unprofitable land and tells them to get off the property. The family which is quite large to begin with, is also joined by the former preacher, Casy. They pile everything they own on top of an old Jalopy, pile themselves on top of their possessions, and set off.

The family is held together by Ma who is the hearbeat of the entire Joad family. You really feel for this family throughout the book because they maintain such hope for a brighter future even though they have many struggles along the way, little to no money, and every indication that California is not the land of milk and honey like the handbills they received promised.

The reader travels along with the Joad family as they face hunger, fear, prejudice, abandonment, and death, but also kindness on the part of the other migrants. As Ma states half way through "the only people willing to help out is other poor people" which rang true throughout the entire book. You get a true sense of the migrant "Okie" experience in California during the 30's. I'll be surprised if I run across a book that gives a better fictional account of this time period. I am very interested now in reading Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time which tells the story of those who survived the Dust Bowl.

For anyone interested in more about this time period I suggest this link from the Library fo Congress which is a collection about migrant workders in California in 1940 and 1941. Fascinating Stuff.

If the FTC is wondering: This book is from my own personal library

I am really glad I read this. John Steinbeck definitely has a new fan in me :)


  1. I love this book, and I'm really happy to see I'm not the only person not married to the NYT bestseller list for reading material. And I highly recommend Egan's book...it was one of my favorites for 2009 -- it's incredibly sad but it's a time period with a lesson for today.

  2. I've almost grabbed the Egan book so many times on my trips to Barnes & Noble. I think next time I may have to get it.

    I like to give the older books some love :) I am trying to read the books that have been on my shelf the longest first so there will probably be lots of older books reviewed here :)

  3. Great review - I've always wanted to read this book, and just never have. You know, one of those...

    Great blog, too - I just found you and am following now. Looking forward to what you have to say - it's hard to find good book blogs about literary and/or historical fiction!