I just finished reading John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath for the first time, and I am blown away at the author's poetic writing style and his depth and breadth of understanding of the human condition. What a beautiful work of art.
I had read Of Mice and Men and loved it, but for some reason I had never gotten around to Grapes. Steinbeck reveals the inner workings of a hard-working people who are close to the land. The mother in the story is an amazing testimony for the strength of woman during hard times. She never stops working and she knows the strengths and weaknesses of the men in her life. If she sees here husband is about to break with despair, she will purposely anger him to prevent the break. If she sees that he can no longer make decisions for the family, then she steps in to make them. She has the gift of keeping everything going, but not taking the glory for it, not stealing the pride of her husband.
Between the chapters that tell the story of the Joads' experience migrating west from the Dust bowl to California looking for work, Steinbeck fills in the gaps of the general mood and goings-on of the country in poetry. Only a poet can capture so much fact and feeling in so few words.