The Pastures of Heaven

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“The Pastures of Heaven” by John Steinbeck
(First publication: 1932 / This edition: Penguins Classics 1995)
Taken during a Sunday catch-up  date with my friend at Warm Wood Cafe

Life is so unreal. I think that we seriously doubt that we exist and go about trying to prove that we do. (pg.49)

If this is our first encounter, here are two things you should know about me (well, my literary self, at least):

I lovelovelove John Steinbeck. “Love”is almost an understatement.
I really do NOT love short stories.
I probably have as many posts praising Steinbeck as I have of venting about how I don’t like short stories.

SO.

“The Pastures of Heaven” is kind of a contradiction, because it’s by John Steinbeck and it’s kind of like a series of twelve short stories put together, while forming one big story.

I love Steinbeck’s way of writing, and how he explores so deeply and thoroughly into human emotions—all the while keeping the writing so simple and smooth to just drink down. It makes you emotional. The Pastures of Heaven is a location, a valley, and it’s a community with many families of many generations and history. You go through the  motions—of jealousy, failure, revenge, psychosis, time loss, love loss, expectations, death…

It’s quite a depressing book.

I know that “depressing” is kind of “part of the Steinbeck package” (except maybe a little less in Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday), but this book has twelve chapters/short stories and they’re all depressing. It’s depressing with a touch of psychopathy and eeriness, so it’s pretty dark.

In “Cannery Row”, I said it kind of reminded me of the TV series “Desperate Housewives”. I feel the same way with “The Pastures of Heaven”; it’s like this community (in the valley called “The Pastures of Heaven”) and each chapter just jumps from one house to the other and tells you of their becoming (and/or going). In the bigger picture, everyone and every house are interconnected, and everything—all the drama, beliefs, superstitions, gossips—just happens in this “circle” of a community.

It’s just so depressing and dark.

I still enjoyed reading it a lot, but… well, it’s a bit too depressing for my liking and I’m not really a fan of short stories. I realized that I was finding it harder and harder to focus in the later chapters because with each new “story”, I had to start from scratch and I’d rather just read one long story instead.

I would recommend this to all the Steinbeck fans. I wouldn’t consider it my favorite. Despite “The Pearl” being more popular and well-known, I actually think this one is better and more absorbing—if you’re looking for a depressing Steinbeck read.

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