Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
5 out of 5 stars
My sister picked this classic for June for me, because she went thru a huge Steinbeck phase right after high school and wanted me to read more of his books. Turns out this was one of the few she actually hadn't read though lol. Luckily, I ended up enjoying it immensely. It was a simple but beautiful book and I highly, highly recommend it. I do have a confession to make before I get into the review though and it's pretty embarrassing. I've always pronounced the title as "Canary Row" like the bird. Until I started reading it and realized it was about a canning factory town and it was actually "Cannery Row". *hangs head*
Okay, so this book is told in a series of small stories or vignettes. The stories have little do with each other individually, but they grow into a bigger picture of the town and its people. In the end, you're left with this beautiful picture of small-town life and its quirky inhabitants. (Side Note: I was just Googling stuff about the book and found out there is a sequel, called Sweet Thursday! Awesome. Classic for July? Possibly!)
Cannery Row in Monterey in California [in the mid 1930s] is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Wow. John Steinbeck is the master of description (not disguise). I hadn't read any of his books since high school and I am honestly really regretting it now. The way he twists words and creates worlds just makes me want to wrap myself up in them like a blanket. And obviously, he makes me want to be more descriptive too lol.
If there had to be a main character in this story, I guess it would be Doc. The owner of a biology lab that sells sea creatures (and other creatures) to students and researchers, Doc somehow became the fountain of philosophy and science and art of this town. People come to him for wisdom, beauty, monetary and theological help. And when they do, he is there. No questions asked. It's for this reason that a ne'er-do-well named Mack and his "boys" decide to throw Doc a party. Although their hearts are in the right place, things never end up quite right when these guys are involved. [T]hey were the worst threats to a home, for they offered ease and thought and companionship as opposed to neatness, order, and properness. The party scenes were probably some of my favorite parts of the story.
I honestly don't know what else I can say about this book. Read it. Enjoy the lyrical ups and downs of the words. Highlight the parts that grab you, the passages you can taste and smell and feel. Although this book is nothing like The Book Thief, it has that same hold on me; its words have been embedded in my heart. And now I'm wondering if it is the story of Cannery Row or the talent of John Steinbeck that strikes such a chord. I think July's classic is going to be Steinbeck too, but not this sequel. Yes, I have decided. :)
Then the sun came up and shook the night chill out of the air the way you'd shake a rug.