The author John Steinbeck first came to my attention with a book called Travels
with Charley, his account of a cross-country road trip with his dog. The
book inspired me to drive to Alaska and back while in my early twenties, and
someday Iíll do it again.
Afterwards, I was a little surprised to learn that the author had also written
some great American fiction works, including The Grapes of Wrath. Twenty years later I
finally read it, and Iím glad I did.
Steinbeck introduces us to a simple extended farm family, the Joads. Things
are bad in Oklahoma. Itís the middle of the Great Depression, fields that
should be producing wheat have turned to gray sand, and the rains simply will
not come. Bills donít get paid, and the banks get rest
less. Finally, the
Joads and others like them are simply kicked off their lands, so the bankers
can combine the tiny farms to squeeze out a profit.
But where will these farm families go? Well, there might be work in California,
and that begins a road trip saga that takes the Joads and their jalopy truck across
five hot, dusty states. Not all of them make it, but most of them do, and
try their best to survive in their strange new surroundings.
Ma Joad is the natural leader of this brood. Holding her large family together
is nearly impossible under the enormous stress, but she does her damnedest and
holds her head high.
If youíve only seen the classic 1940 film, experience the classic book
too. Each enriches the other. One bonus to the book: a truly strange (yet fitting)
ending that you wonít find in the movie.