Book Review: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath
by
John Steinbeck

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Why Tom—us people will go on livin’ when all them people is gone. Why, Tom, we’re the people that live. They ain’t gonna wipe us out. Why, we’re the people—we go on.” —Ma Joad

When nothing will grow on your farm in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, when half your house has been bulldozed away by your landowner, when you sell as many belongings as you can, buy a car, add a makeshift trailer and pile three generations of your family inside and on top, next to mattresses, frying pans, barrels, a couple slaughtered and salted pigs and a dog, for the longest journey you’ve ever made, where do you get your strength? You get it from your family and the people around you who are struggling just like you.

The Grapes of Wrath is one of the greatest American stories of endurance ever told. It’s a fictional account of the Joad family and a real-life depiction of the western migration of about two hundred thousand displaced farm workers during the Great Depression, people who left their homes in Oklahoma and the surrounding states with the promise of work and a better life in California. When they reach California and discover what the real relationship is between big-time farmers and poor migrants, when they are forced to take pennies for a long day of picking peaches or cotton or grapes, when they earn barely enough to feed their families, even when they live in tents and shacks and railroad cars and are nearly starving, they don’t give up.

Maybe you’ve never read The Grapes of Wrath. There’s so much information and analysis about this great classic, I don’t think I can come close to offering anything new. So I’m just going to tell you what I like about the story.

  • The characters are terrific. Some are strong, some are weak, but they face their ordeal with surprising optimism, even when there is little hope. 
  • My favorite is Ma. She isn’t afraid to assert herself and her quick thinking gets the family out of more than a few tough situations.  She talks plain, but she’s smart and insightful. When Pa complains that Ma is telling him what to do, he suggests that “it’s purty near time to get out a stick.” Ma stands up to him. “You get your stick, Pa. Times when they’s food an’ a place to set, then maybe you can use your stick an’ keep your skin whole…But you jus’ get you a stick now an’ you ain’t lickin’ no woman; you’re a fightin’, cause I got a stick all laid out too.” She makes crucial decisions by instinct. She understands people and has a vision of what things can be like if everyone pulls together. She accepts everyone’s weaknesses and sees how they can contribute. 
  • Jim Casy, the preacher, is another character with depth and vision. He’s humble and he understands his sins. The fact that he questions his ability to preach makes his ideas all the more powerful. He seems to have it right when he says, “I got thinkin’ how we was holy when we was one thing, an’ mankin’ was holy when it was one thing. An’ it on’y got unholy when one mis’able little fella got the bit in his teeth an’ run off his own way, kickin’ and draggin’ an’ fightin’. Fella like that bust the holiness.”
  • I like how the family forgives each other for their weaknesses. They don’t dwell on them. Tom Joad has served his time for murder and the family accepts him. They understand when Noah goes off. When Al goes out “tomcatting,” they accept this as inevitable. Instead, they see how great he is with the car and they give him confidence. They tolerate Uncle John’s occasional drunkenness. They understand that’s the only way he can cope with his own sorrow. They accept Rosasharn’s preoccupation with her pregnancy, Granma’s and Grandpa’s craziness. They know that they can’t change some things. They focus instead on getting to California.
  • When tragedy strikes again and again, they deal with it. They don’t feel sorry for themselves. They aren’t passive. They defend themselves if they have to. They try to do things right, but they don’t feel guilty about things when they cut corners or break some rules. And they aren’t afraid. When the service station boy tells Tom he has nerve for crossing the California desert in the night, Tom answers plainly, “It don’t take no nerve to do somepin when there ain’t nothin’ else you can do.”
  • They are generous. Even when they have nothing, they offer to help their neighbors. And their neighbors help in return.  They have their community of family and shantytown neighbors.

When The Grapes of Wrath was published, Steinbeck said, “I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags.” He put heart and soul into expressing his outrage over the treatment of these poor migrant farm workers and he did it with vivid descriptions and powerful characters.

Did you read The Grapes of Wrath in high school or college? Have you read it more than once? This is my third time and I give it five stars for its lasting story and important message.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

In case you missed them! What’s that Book Recap Jan-June 2022

Hi Everyone,

Thanks to these reviewers who submitted book reviews for What’s That Book. It’s great to see what other people are reading and what books they recommend. My TBR list is getting longer!

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith – reviewed by Kaitlin Jain

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron – reviewed by Darlene Foster

Something to Hide: A Lynley Novel by Elizabeth George – reviewed by Noelle Granger

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut – reviewed by Austin Vitelli

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – reviewed by Robbie Cheadle


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

Looking for more? Check out these other recaps:

Book Review Recap Jan-Jun 2022
Spotlight on Indie Authors Jan-Jun 2022
BCM Post Recap Jan-Jun 2022

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

In case you missed them! BCM Post Recap Jan-Jun 2022

Hi Everyone,

In case you missed them, today I’m sharing some posts from Jan– June 2022.

Five thrillers I want to read – Of these five, I’ve read one – Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson. You can read that review here.

Books from the sea – At first I called this “Selected books about water and the sea” but I thought that sounded funny. There’s only one book that isn’t about the sea (We Are Water by Wally Lamb) anyway so forgive me for not being totally accurate!  And “Selected” sounded unnecessary hence the new title.

Common grammar mistakes that make a bad impression – I love talking about grammar, but I’m no expert and make many mistakes. Always glad to know the right way, though!

Book Club Mom on YouTube – list of videos – I have three new video ideas in the works, so stay tuned! Meantime you can check these out.

Do you look things up when you read? – I do, all the time! If I’m reading on my Kindle, then I use that. Otherwise my phone is always nearby.

Book Clubs – they come and go and now they’re on Zoom! – As Book Club Mom, this subject always interests me!

Man books – books with “man” in the title – pretty self-explanatory!

Who knew there were so many Rebecca covers? – I guess when a book is as well-known at Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, you have to expect a lot of different covers.

The Booker Prize – what’s it all about? – I didn’t know much about the Booker Prize, did you?

Book Club Mom’s Top 25 All-Time Favorite Books – I had to expand my list. I think one day I’ll need to change it to Top 100!

Nonfiction books on my radar – my TBR grows! – Wow, I posted this in January and haven’t read any of them yet! Boo for me!

Looking for more? Check out these other recaps:

Book Review Recap Jan-Jun 2022
Spotlight on Indie Authors Jan-Jun 2022
What’s that Book Recap Jan-June 2022

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Books from the sea

Read and reviewed

Summer is a great time to read books about water and the sea. Take a look at this mix of classic tales, popular fiction and nonfiction:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
What happens to a group of young British schoolboys when their plane is shot down and they land on deserted island in the Pacific?

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The classic Hemingway story of Santiago, an old Cuban fisherman who has not caught a fish in eighty-four days

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
Light historical fiction and romance written into the history of the Titanic’s voyage, its passengers and the disaster’s aftermath

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
A story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife, who live alone on an island off Western Australia

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Fast-paced, coming-of-age fantasy tale for adults about the mysteries of life, death, nature, the past, and the present

We Are Water by Wally Lamb
A rotating narrative about abuse over time and generations, and its range of effects

The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Touching coming-of-age story about an eleven-year-old American boy living on the island of Curaçao during World War II

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
True survival story of the whaleship Essex, attacked and sunk by an eighty-five foot sperm whale in the Pacific


Read but not reviewed

Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville
A classic Melville story about the battle between good and evil

Jaws by Peter Benchley
Gripping suspense novel about a killer shark off a Long Island beach

Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Ahab takes on a killer whale.  Classic story inspired by the whaleship Essex

Gift from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh
Meditations about love, marriage and family written by Charles Lindbergh’s American wife


Old-time classics

The Happy Return by C.S. Forester

Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

Shōgun by James Clavell

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini

Do you have any favorite tales about the sea?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Definitive Book Blogger List 📢

Hi Everyone – Sofii over at “A Book A Thought” put together this terrific list of book bloggers. It takes a long time to compile a linked list like this so thank you, Sofii! It’s a great way to connect with other book bloggers. Take a look, you may find a bunch of new blogging friends like I did!

A Book. A Thought.

📢Hi, friends! I hope you’re having a wonderful day full of the best readings & beautiful moments.❤️ SO excited and SO happy to be presenting you today a project that I’ve been working on for some months now, and it’s THE DEFINITIVE BOOK BLOGGER LIST. 🎉This small space on the internet within my blog aims and is made with the intention of celebrating our work as bloggers amplifying the voices in order to give us more support among ourselves with each of our projects. (More info about this project idea HERE)
The work of book bloggers is worthy of greater respect, admiration, and recognition, that’s what has prompted me in the first place to create this list of which many wonderful book bloggers and beautiful people have wanted to participate, which makes me more than happy. 😍I hope from the bottom of my heart that we…

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AtoZ Blogging Challenge April 2022. B is for @BookClubMom and Book Ends Literary Agency @Bookendslit on @YouTube

Hi Everyone, author Luccia Gray has featured my YouTube channel over on her blog. I hope you’ll stop by and while you’re there, take a look at Luccia’s blog, Rereading Jane Eyre. It’s one of my favorite places to visit!

Rereading Jane Eyre

YouTube Channels and Youtubers for writers and everyone else!

I’m joining the AtoZ challenge sharing YouTube channels and Youtubers I follow as an independent author, researcher, learner, reader, and someone who is interested in emotional growth and physical wellbeing, as well as entertainment and current affairs.

I’ve enjoyed watching YouTube videos for years, but in 2020, when the pandemic broke out in Europe and the first lockdown was imposed as a security measure in most countries, I decided to go Premium on YouTube and I started watching even more videos on a wide variety of entertaining and informative topics, which I’d like to share with you over the coming month. I hope you enjoy! 

Today, I’d like to introduce you to two channels; the first is Book Club Mom. I started following Barbara Vitelli’s blog ages ago, and I recently started following her YouTube channel. She’s an inspiration…

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What’s That Book? The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Hi Everyone! Today I’d like to welcome Darlene Foster, today’s contributor to What’s That Book. Thank you, Darlene!

I’d like to welcome Kathleen Le Dain as a contributor to What’s That Book.

Title: The Shadow of the Wind

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Genre: Magical Realism/Historical Mystery

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s it about? One cold morning in 1945, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel to a labyrinthine library of forgotten titles, hidden in the old city of Barcelona. Allowed to choose one book, Daniel pulls out The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. But as Daniel grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in this book. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to discover the truth about the life and death of Julian Carax, and to save those he left behind. A book lover´s book, and a tale of obsession, the story brings alive the magic and mystery of Barcelona, its gothic streets and hidden corners. A world that has lost none of its power to entrance and bewitch. (from the back cover of my copy)

How did you hear about it? When I was planning to move to Spain, a friend suggested I read it. Then over the course of the next five years, others recommended it. A friend from France gave it to me as a gift from Shakespeare and Company. I knew then that it was time to finally read it.

Have you read other books by this author? Not yet, but there are three more in this series called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

What did you like about the book? One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Several stories within a story, it´s complicated, full of many interesting and complex characters. A tale of books, writers, history, lovers and mystery. But I was never confused, as it is so well written. The city of Barcelona is another character and is the perfect place to set a story such as this. The time is right after the Spanish civil war, an event that plays a huge role in this tale as it defines a generation.

The writing is at times dark and serious and at other times hilarious. The author uses his words so well, like this—“She was famous for letting off hurricane-force wind capable of stunning the sparrows on her balcony and sending them spiralling down to the ground.

And this—To my dismay, the day was turning out to be longer than The Brothers Karamazov.”

My favourite line—Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.

Closing comments: I loved every word. This is a book that will stay with me forever.

Contributor: Darlene Foster—Brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Darlene dreamt of writing, travelling the world and meeting interesting people. Following her dreams, she’s now an award-winning author of children’s travel adventure books. She divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Spanish Costa Blanca, where she lives with her husband and entertaining rescue dogs, Dot and Lia. Learn more about Darlene at darlenefoster.wordpress.com.


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Book Review: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – buddy read with Roberta Writes

Hi Everyone, I’m reblogging this because I published it too early! I hope you enjoy this review and that you’ll stop by Robbie’s blog, too, to read her thoughts on For Whom the Bell Tolls. All links are live now 🙂

Book Club Mom

For Whom the Bell Tolls
by
Ernest Hemingway

Lately I’ve been in the mood to return to the classics. I’ve always loved Hemingway, but had never read For Whom the Bell Tolls, published in 1940. I’m sure you’ve all either read it or heard of it. Maybe you’ve seen the 1943 movie starring Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman and Akim Tamiroff.

You may not know that the title refers a line of prose by the poet John Donne which begins with, “No man is an island, entire of himself.” Donne wrote those lines in 1624 as part of a larger work entitled Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. The last lines read, “Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” The gist of Donne’s words is that we are all part of a greater whole. And Donne’s bell metaphor reminds…

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National Novel Writing Month Author Interview – Geoff Le Pard

Hi Everyone, I’m sharing our library’s NaNoWriMo interview with indie author Geoff Le Pard. Read about his projects and what inspires him!

Stay Connected with Chescolibraries

During the month of November, aspiring and published authors from around the world have committed to writing 50,000 words in thirty days.

Geoff Le Pard

Today we welcome NaNoWriMo published author Geoff Le Pard, a published indie author whose multiple projects began with NaNoWriMo challenges.

Thank you for joining us, Geoff!

How many years have you participated in NaNoWriMo? I’ve done three and a half years!

How did you first hear about or get started with NaNoWriMo? When I started blogging, I read about it and heard people praise it so decided to give it a go.

Three of your books began as NaNoWriMo projects. Can you tell us more about how you got started? The first book was the second book in a series. It followed my hero on his hapless journey and was set in 1981. Having finished the first book (set in 1976), I knew I wanted…

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National Novel Writing Month Author Interview – J.D. Estrada

Hi Everyone, I’m sharing this NaNoWriMo author interview from our library blog. Say hello to J.D. Estrada!

Stay Connected with Chescolibraries

During the month of November, aspiring and published authors from around the world have committed to writing 50,000 words in thirty days.

J.D. Estrada

Today we welcome NaNoWriMo published author J.D. Estrada, a published indie author whose multiple projects began with NaNoWriMo challenges.

Thank you for joining us, J.D.!

How many years have you participated in NaNoWriMo? Along with Camp NaNoWriMo I’ve participated 4 different years though not back-to-back. November is often a very tricky month to navigate because of work and hey, we’re only human 🙂 Still, when the opportunity is there, I dive right in.

How did you first hear about or get started with NaNoWriMo? I first heard about NaNo when a fellow indie author was hosting some live panels, YouTube videos, and write-ins 5 years ago and the year after. I found it interesting and took a stab at Camp NaNo first to get my feet…

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