A Long Time Coming
February 17th, 2012

About a year before I launched this blog I started a private, family blog to keep out-of-town relatives abreast of what the Family P was up to.  Nearly all of the posts on that blog are about the boys.  But prior to having another venue to explore other topics I would sometimes post about subjects other than the mind-boggling genius and adorability of IEP.  The post below was one such entry.

As I was killing time on Pinterest yesterday I created a board of my favorite books. The Grapes of Wrath is one of them, and I was reminded of this post and thought it might be worth posting here.  Note that it was originally written in August 2009, when IEP was about nine months old.

It is with great relief that I’m here to tell you that over the weekend I finally finished The Grapes of Wrath. For those who have been keeping track, I started it about a year ago. Now don’t judge. In my own defense I’d like the record to reflect that in that time I’ve also read all ofWhat to Expect When You’re ExpectingYour Pregnancy Week by Week, and the first nine months of What to Expect the First Year (sense a theme here?). I’ve also had a baby and started a new job. So it’s not like I’ve just been on the couch since last August. Well, not the whole time. Wouldn’t that be nice, though?

Anyway, this has been a long time coming (Gone with the Wind didn’t take half this long). I thought I would finish it before “the baby” was born (this was back before IEP was IEP). I even took it to the hospital with me in November. (In retrospect, that’s hilarious.) Then I thought I’d finish it by the end of the year. (In my first six weeks of motherhood? Even more hilarious!) I thought I’d finish it before I went back to work. Before vacation. Before IEP goes to college. … That last one, as it turns out, was realistic.

For much of the book I wasn’t really all that into it. Poverty, hunger, sickness, death, oppression – not the kind of things that add up to a real page-turner. Many evenings I’d get in bed, give a big “ho hum” as I picked it up off the nightstand and GAP would say, “Why don’t you just put it down?” But I couldn’t do it. I think I figured that I have it much better than the poor Joads and the least I could do was show them the respect of not ditching them altogether. And now my perseverance has paid off. I’ve finished it, and I’m very satisfied. And, partly to justify to myself that the endeavor was worthwhile, here’s what I learned from this book:

  1. Even preachers have their sins. One doesn’t actually have to read The Grapes of Wrath to learn that (thank you Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, etc.), but Jim Casy is thoughtful and penitent about his in a way that makes you respect him.
  2. Unions may be a huge hassle for business owners, but it’s a darn good thing we have them.
  3. Eating too many peaches will give your kids “the skitters.”
  4. I should be more charitable. The hardest sentence of the book to read was when Ma Joad was asking a store clerk to give her 10 cents worth of sugar on credit. He grudgingly obliged and she commented that in their travels she’d learned was that when you need charity, ask poor people, because rich people won’t ever help you. Ouch! I almost never give to panhandlers, and I think that ought to change.
  5. Ma Joad could get anyone through anything.
  6. Don’t write off the silver lining. For 617 pages I was utterly convinced that Rose of Sharon (“Rosasharn” in Joad vernacular) was as worthless a character as I’d ever read. And then, on page 618 (of 619) she did the most touching, selfless thing. (I won’t say what it was, in case you haven’t read it.) It was her gesture at the end of the book that made the whole book worthwhile and really hit home the most important “lesson learned,” which is…
  7. No matter how bad things get – ever – there is always someone with less, and we always have something left to give.

4 Responses to “A Long Time Coming”

  1. BigLittleWolf Says:

    I have a vague recollection that I may have read Grapes of Wrath in high school. My kids did. But honestly, I can’t recall.

    As for those massive books that are sometimes hard to get into and then you’re “in it” and don’t ever want to leave – my tendencies went to the Russian classics. Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov. These proud, worn books still sit on my shelves – a few in the original Russian (talk about taking a year to read!) – and I only wish I had the time and headspace to re-read some of our great classics.

  2. Gale Says:

    BLW – I know what you mean about struggling to get into these kinds of books and then wanting to stay forever. I felt the same way about East of Eden and Gone With the Wind. As for the Russian classics, they are on my To Do list. Last year I had intended to dedicate the year to reading classics and what with the pregnancy and all it never happened. I’m trying to take a more balanced approach to my reading this year – reading a mix of popular fiction, nonfiction, and classic novels. A Tale of Two Cities is first on the list. If I get through that one, Anna Karenina is next. My sister read it in college and loved it, so I’m really looking forward to it, but I’m intentionally waiting until SSP is sleeping through the night before I even attempt it.

  3. Kathryn at Good Life Road Says:

    Great snap shot summary Gale. This one has been at the top of my must reads for oh just about forever now. I did start it once but unlike you I did not over come the ho-hums that time. This is also one of my husbands all time favorites so the pressure is that much greater. I’m encouraged by this post though so maybe….just maybe…

  4. Cathy Says:

    No matter how bad things get – ever – there is always someone with less, and we always have something left to give. — Yep. Best lesson ever.