Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I finished this book last night. It was one of those books that is so emotionally disturbing, because it is historical fiction and hence you feel even worse knowing that the characters portrayed in this book were written from looking at other's lives and basically change of name was all that occurred. Steinbeck every other chapter would write a narrative description about what was happening in the United States during the Depression with migrant workers. Now these aren't migrant workers from Mexico, etc. These are as Steinbeck writes "our own" people- just poor people. Those chapters were normally short and he then followed the description with another chapter looking at specifically what the Joad family were experiencing with their migration to California. It is unbelievable to think that people really lived like this and that they survived. The book is not a feel good book, but I felt like I was again reading about American History.
Steinbeck's also wrote East of Eden, which is by far my favorite work by him. If I had to pick I'd encourage you to read East of Eden first and then tackle Grapes. The one thing I struggled with when finishing this book was how he let the story end. This is sometimes a common complaint I have with books I can't put down- I'm sometimes disappointed in the ending. This was not one of those books, but I still felt at the end like he didn't really know how to wrap the story up. However, I think this is his writing style and so purposeful.
I leave you with my favorite line(s) from the book. I'm moving on to Tolstoy and the Purple Chair- started it last night in fact after finishing Grapes of Wrath. I could tell within 5 pages this will be a great story!
The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, and watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.