Book #18: Of Mice and Men

Fast facts:

Book title: “Of Mice and Men”

Author: John Steinbeck

Genre/Audience: Fiction; teen/adult

Rating: 10/10

Worth the read?: Most certainly.

It’s becoming quite the tradition that I begin these posts by saying that “I’ve been staring at the screen for a long time and can’t figure out what to say.”

There is nothing that has not already been said in favor of Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men. I shall not even attempt to say something new; it cannot be done.

I remember when my brother was in high school and was assigned this novella for class. He and my mother used to lean over the family room bar after school, my brother expressing his frustration about reading the book. My mom, a note of frustration in her voice, explained time and time again why the book was important for him to read and that the characters had something to teach us. He really wasn’t a fan.

As a result of that, Of Mice and Men was stained in my memory for years. It sounded like a dreadfully confusing story, and from everything I’d ever heard, it was bound to upset me. But while in Portland last month, I made mention of my 50 book goal and Of Mice and Men entered the conversation. It was clear that I needed to stop missing out on this story, so I decided to read it once school ended for summer. Last week, I borrowed a copy of the book from a friend and finished it in one evening (that’s not hard to do, of course, since it’s only a novella).

The book is quite predictable, but perhaps that’s because it’s a classic that I’ve lived unconsciously surrounded by for years. Then again, the same could be said about To Kill a Mockingbird, and I didn’t quite peg the ending of that one. Maybe it’s because Of Mice and Men is so short that the ending was obvious early on. Regardless, it doesn’t matter much that the end is easy to guess because it’s not about what happens, but how.

Steinbeck’s writing is strong throughout, but the end of the book is particularly striking. He writes with such an exquisite rawness that it truly feels as if you are sitting next to Lennie and George in the final moments of the story.

When I finished reading, I couldn’t bring myself to move for several minutes. The ceiling fan above me was making this dreadful knocking sound that usually drives me batty, but for a time, I didn’t even notice. My chest hurt a little bit. I’ve been feeling that chest pain an awful lot lately. Emotions, man. They really are awful.

Of Mice and Men made me realize I have been wasting precious opportunities to delve into classic novels in my free time. So, the day after I read it, I spent time in my university’s library hunting down four classics to read next. I’ve already completed one, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. I won’t spoil my review of that here, but let’s just say that I am not a Hemingway fan. I thought that perhaps giving him a second shot would do the trick, but I was wrong.

Anyway, as I was saying…Of Mice and Men far exceeded the expectations of 8th grade Nikki. It was a beautifully tragic tale in more than one way, and I am thankful to have read and learned from its pages. Soon, I plan to tackle Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

Until next time, my friends…happy reading. 🙂