Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

I will admit this right up front at the beginning of this post.

I still have not finished Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

However, I am loving it.

Here are the reasons I’m not done.  I’ve had one of those weeks where events conspired to pack just as much as possible into them.  Months ago, we signed Amelia up for a class at the Rose Theatre (the children’s theater here in Omaha), specifically for a camp about Mary Poppins (which is their big spring production) because she’d have the chance to go behind stage et cetera.  Well, then about 6 weeks ago, Vacation Bible School at our church was planned for this week.  Luckily in the evening, since we had camp in the afternoon.  THEN about a week and a half ago, where I work some of the time doing title reports when they get too many orders called.  They needed me to work.  Of course.  9 to 2.  So, I have basically had about 2 hours total a day to do something other than events.  And things like dishes, meal prep and staring into space while drooling all had to occur in there.

But, maybe, because of the slower pace of reading, I’m loving this book.  Last week, I couldn’t get into it, which is part of the reason I didn’t have it finished last week when Dave blogged in my place.  But, not even a quarter into it and it began to work its magic on me.

The following authors listed it as favorites: Sherman Alexie, Pearl Cleage, Kent Haruf, Ken Kalfus, Wally Lamb, George Pelacanos, Barry Unsworth, Susan Vreeland and Tom Wolfe.

I have always said that I’ve learned more history from historical novels or contemporary novels written in times now historical than I ever have from history textbooks.  Grapes of Wrath proves my point.  I, of course, knew about the Dust Bowl, and had even heard about the migration west of those whose farms got plowed under and they got shoved off the land.  But, at the same time I didn’t know about it.  Not truly.  It was just a random historical fact that in my readings about the Great Depression or Midwest history type stuff had come up.  Now, I feel like I know.  I know how it was to lose the right to farm the land that had been in my family for three generations.  I know what it was like to find a group of people camping alongside the road in the panhandle of Texas and join the camp for the night.  I know what it was like to watch loved ones die along the way.  I know what it was like to get your hopes up high for a better way of life, only to slowly realize that it wasn’t the truth.  I know how it feels to feel like you’ve been cheated by “the man” all along.

Great books of whatever genre, whatever time period, bring you into the world of the story.  You are a part of it.  It’s the weird author/reader symbiosis that leads to no two people reading the same novel, even if they’re both reading a book with the words Grapes of Wrath on the cover and following the Joad family on their trip across the country to California.  And when you aren’t actively reading it because you’re in your car (listening to an audiobook maybe even) or at work (listening to an audiobook maybe), greeting people and kids to Vacation Bible School (definitely not listening to an audio book), laying in bed with your flailing 7 year old next to you refusing to sleep (also definitely not listening to an audio book at that point, but maybe playing Words Tour while lying there), it’s with you still.  Part of your mind is with the story, part of your mind is still in that world.  And when you’re done with the book, the world leaves a residue in your soul.  And I think that explains why so many people pick a lot of the same books as ones worth reading.  And why so many of us re-read books.  We miss the world(s) in them.

Next week, I’ll give my final opinion of Grapes of Wrath while talking about my next selection (which is possibly going to be Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet, I am not decided).

Have a great weekend everyone! Mine includes going to see Mary Poppins, the play, and other various items that I’m not remembering.

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