The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

A wonderfully captivating and truly depressing book – it is clear why this is a literary great. John Steinbeck describes the journey of the Joad family from Oklahoma to California during the dust bowl of the great depression. Despair drips heavily off every page and Steinbeck captures the emotions skillfully. One technique was the naïve and sincere hope of finding a better life in California despite the clear signs that the family was on a treacherous path. Particularly compelling were the peculiar chapters that did not feature the Joad family at all, dotted through the book. Steinbeck slotted in these brief stories, related to the Joad journey, which were clearly hopeless and served as a contrast to the Joad’s anxious hopes. The technique felt deeply estranging.

I am sure the book hit home for two personal reasons. 1) I moved to California in recent years and 2) The current level of global debt makes a great depression scenario a higher probability event than it has been since the 1930s (that’s not a forecast, just a probability).

This book is not for those who area looking for something happy and cheerful, but it was a captivating page turner for me and one of the best I have read in years.

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