Cannery Row - John Steinbeck (1945)

It's easy to be swept up in the reputation, celebrity, and strength of Steinbeck synonymous with Of Mice and Men, East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath. Perfectly explained by Nick Pitts, considering Steinbeck, "It's going to be a tasty meal, but you've got a lot of chewing to do." Cannery Row generates more moments of thought, feeling, conversation and compassion than there were words in the book.

Cannery Row is a short, snappy read that doesn't spoon feed you the story. You have to become part of the story. You have to feel, think and see yourself in the characters. Steinbeck invites you to step into the Flophouse, walking along the rockpools or general store aisles, but it's up to you to accept it.

Glimpsing the lives of diverse people, with only a locale in common, during the latter stage of the great depression in Monterey, California sounds like a wonderful setting for a plot to unfurl. However, there is no plot, or perhaps, the setting is the plot. We witness how the environment effects individuals, groups and the cyclic impacts of each to the other.

We learn profound details about the individuals, but we have no history. We don't know their future. We feel their lives and we feel our lives in the moment. What life, what the world can be, when it's accountable unto itself. And that's why you should read this book.

David L. Ruch (Melbourne City Chapter)