Tuesday, July 7, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: "The Pastures of Heaven"

The Pastures of Heaven
John Steinbeck
Copyright 1932
Robert O. Ballou, Inc.
Classic Literature

Take a voyeuristic look at Las Pasturas del Cielo, The Pastures of Heaven, with author John Steinbeck and you will be welcomed into a world of fate, longing, disappointment, and resignation. This collection of interconnected short stories tells of the lives of the inhabitants of a secluded valley near Salinas, California. Each tale draws the reader closer and closer in to the core meaning of the name of this enchanted place.

This lonely collection of farmhouses and cabins is a final resting place for the hopes and dreams of three generations. From the single farmer who finds an abandoned baby on the side of the road, to the new school teacher fresh from the city, each character is portrayed in stunning detail. Their ambitions are all different, but the end result of each story ties them all together.

One of my favorite stories in the book revolves around the Whiteside family. A man who has decided to create a legacy, purchases land and builds an estate. He envisions the home being filled with children and imagines the home passing from generation to generation so that he can live on forever. This man and his wife, unfortunately, are able to have only one child. While this saddens them greatly, they direct their son, when he becomes an adult, to carry on their wishes. The son is very much like his parents, and he too wants to continue on this legacy. That son, however, is also only able to have one child, and when that child decides he doesn’t want to stay in the valley, the only reasonable conclusion to the story results.

There is such variety and eccentricity in the characters of this masterpiece; from the prostitutes who ask forgiveness each day from their statue of the Virgin Mary, to the chicken farmer who thinks nothing of visiting his friend (the warden of the prison) and witnessing executions, to the man named “Shark” who leads everyone to believe he is the possessor of great wealth, when in reality, he is as poor and destitute as his neighbors.

I truly enjoyed this book. It is one of the better “classics” that I’ve read and I would recommend it to anyone wishing to expand their literary horizons.

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