The Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck.
Penguin Group: NY, 1995.
Originally published in 1932 by Robert O. Ballou, New York.
Nobel award author

I read this book, because it was a major theme in my Book of the Month selection, Steinbeck's Ghost, which refers to both the characters and setting in The Pastures of Heaven. It is a short story cycle, meaning a collection of interrelated short stories. There are an introductory chapter and ending chapter. Then each of the other ten is about a different family living in a valley near Salinas, CA, called Las Pasturas del Cielo. The conclusions for each family take place within a two year span, so characters are involved in different stories.

Each story describes a way in which at least one member of the family is living based on an illusion. Something happens in the story to shatter the delusion, forcing a confrontation with reality. The first family story deals with the Munroes. The Munroes have recently moved to the valley to escape a curse Bert feels follows him, only to reside in the very house believed to be cursed by the residents of the valley. The Munroes fix up the property, and the curse seems to be gone. However, each family is adversely affected in some way by the Munroes, though there is no intention by the Munroes to do harm.

As short stories, I enjoy the book. The interconnected aspect makes it possible to get to know the characters better and adds mystery. The stories are strong for being so short. Steinbeck's language has a wonderful texture. Highly descriptive, but in a beautiful way. It isn't difficult to read in any way, but it has a languid or leisurely quality that contrasts writings of more recent authors. I remember liking The Grapes of Wrath in high school. I would guess because of the writing style and some of the social commentary. The Pastures of Heaven is much shorter. Still a little depressing, but nowhere near as heavy.

related-California, farm life, families, small towns
RL=8th and up, can be read earlier but has mature content

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