When my high school English teacher told us we would be reading “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, I recall hearing most, if not all, of the students groaning in agony.
I, on the other hand, could not wait to read a book I had heard about since I was a small girl. As a child, I was fascinated by stories my grandparents told about their lives growing up, and my grandmother would tell us to read “The Grapes of Wrath” to get an idea what it was like for her, the child of a migrant farmer in the Midwest.
I was equally pleased to read the book again for the May meeting of The Page Turners book club. In his classic novel, Steinbeck tells the story of the Joads, an Oklahoma family forced off their homestead to travel west seeking work in California.
Much of the book focuses on the Joads and the adversities they face as they try to survive and maintain their dignity. Steinbeck also interrupts the Joads’ narrative with inner, or intercalary, chapters which give more general information about the situations and locations in the story.
Opinions from book club members were overwhelmingly positive. Members liked the book’s structure and appreciated Steinbeck’s writing style in the inner chapters. One member said she “got more out of it reading it 40 years later” than she did when she was in school. Another member said the book “was just a story back then."
The novel received thumbs up from all eight members present.
The book club meets for 90 minutes, but we could have discussed the book for twice that long. The topics discussed included Steinbeck’s use of symbolism, the banning of the book by groups of Americans around the country, and the parallels between the large land holders of the 30s and the big corporations of today.
It was clear from our discussion that “The Grapes of Wrath” is as relevant now as it was in 1939.
The book chosen for the month of June is “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. For more information about book clubs, contact Tina Kaple at the Destin Library at 850-837-8572.