4 out of 5 stars
Steinbeck can do no wrong in my opinion. (Even The Pearl and The Red Pony, which I had to mark down for killing so much, are still literary masterpieces.) He has unequivocally become my favorite author. This little book of short stories is no different. The passion and love that Steinbeck has for his home town of Salinas, California shines thru on the pages of many of these books.
The layout is similar to that of Cannery Row, short chapters on various people in the small town and the escapades they get up to. But all of these stories center around one family, the Munroes, who move into the old cursed Battle farm. They manage to remake the farm into something prosperous and are good people but somehow they manage to bring bad luck to their neighbors and friends without even knowing it. Jobs become tedious, love affairs go awry, homes catch fire, and people even die.
“Maybe your curse and the farm's curse mated and gone into a gopher hole like a pair of snakes. Maybe they'll be a lot of baby curses crawling around in Pastures of Heaven.”
After the bare requisites to living and reproducing, man wants most to leave some record of himself, a proof, perhaps, that he has really existed. He leaves his proof on wood, on stone or on the lives of other people.
This deep desire exists in everyone, from the boy who writes dirty words in a public toilet to the Buddha who etches his image in the race mind.
Life is so unreal. I think that we seriously doubt that we exist and go about trying to prove that we do.