Book #22: Grapes of Wrath

Fast facts:

Book title: “Grapes of Wrath”

Author: John Steinbeck

Genre/Audience: Fiction, realism; adult

Rating: 8.5/10

Worth the read?: Yes

I desperately wanted to title this blog “Fruits of Fury,” but thought perhaps no one would read it if I butchered the title so. But really, the parody title options are wonderful. Berries of Rage is also quite comical to me.

When I first cracked open this book, I was overjoyed at the short chapters. I have a serious problem reading books with lengthy chapters, as I don’t like to pause reading in the middle of one and I find it frustrating when chapters drag on and on. Even reading Harry Potter is troublesome for me sometimes—I constantly flip ahead to see how much longer I have to read before the section ends, no matter how much I enjoy a story. Frankly, this habit annoys me, and I wish greatly that I would stop.

Steinbeck’s chapters alternated in Grapes of Wrath, beginning with a short chapter of broad exposition and then following with a longer chapter of focused narrative. The exposition-type chapters were less than five pages long, while the plot chapters ranged anywhere from 15-50 pages.

My most favorite parts of the book were found in the pages that offered a broad view of things. Those chapters spoke so clearly and depressingly about the state of life during the Dust Bowl era. The terrifying thing, though, is that many times I was shaking my head in shame because today, in 2018, America continues to be riddled with prejudice and ideals of supremacy—the language and targets have merely shifted. There was one chapter that reminded me so much of the current presidential administration that I almost cried from shame. In so few words, Steinbeck pinpoints and vividly describes the horrible states in which people lived (and, terribly, that some still live in today).

As for the plot itself, I spent most of the story dreading the end because I knew something absolutely awful would happen. I also realized halfway through that I was taking so much time to read this book because everything I have read in recent history has been utterly depressing! I vowed that after finishing this book I would read something lighthearted. (I’m keeping that promise, too.) I was stunned when the book ended. Stunned, not because of tragedy, but because of the lack of finality. I texted one of my friends and remarked that I could tell someone everything that happens on the last two pages of the book without spoiling anything plot-related.

I tested the theory later by calling my mom and telling her the ending. After giving her the rundown of the book, I spoiled the end (with her permission), and she agreed with me. What an unusual choice, I thought at first. But the longer I’ve considered the ending, the more okay with it I am. It remains an odd ending, but it is one that I will not squabble about.

This novel is written beautifully. I really, truly love Steinbeck’s writing style and how he moves plots along. It reads realistically, sometimes achingly so, and Steinbeck offers such honest portrayals of his characters. In the course of the story, I felt everything from anger to sorrow to occasional happiness. Although, I can confirm that this book is certainly not a joyful one. Perhaps that’s why Steinbeck called it Grapes of Wrath. There is so much anger, so much despair, and so much real life happening within these pages.

I’m beyond ready to read something happy again. For my next several books I aim not to hurt my heart, but to heal it. I aim for laughter and joy. It has been quite a journey in the last month as I’ve read classic novels. I’ll come back again to them before the year ends, but for now, somebody bring me some laughter!

Happy reading!

Nikki