If you have noticed a lot of Steinbeck reviews the last few months, that’s on me. I currently live in the Monterey Bay Area and decided that while I live here, I should read the works of the man who was so inspired by this place. Steinbeck is from Salinas, CA, the largest city in the area but many of his books take place in and around the county. The famous Cannery Row of Monterey is actually named for his book, which popularized the nickname of the former Ocean View Avenue. Monterey loves celebrating Steinbeck. Just today, on one of the Monterey County instagram pages, they posted pictures of Ed Ricketts’ old house and lab which still stand on Cannery Row. Ricketts was the inspiration for many of Steinbeck’s characters, specifically Doc in Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday and Jim Casey in The Grapes of Wrath among many others. Steinbeck is an important part of the long history of Monterey and The Pastures of Heaven captures some of that history in Steinbeck’s own way.
The Pastures of Heaven is really a collection of short stories about people who live in an area called Corral de Tierra here in Monterey County. There are twelve stories and they focus on the pain people suffer from trying to please others. Pastures was published in 1932 yet you can see the Steinbeck that was to come in the writing. The characters are all flawed but mostly redeemable and always relatable.
If you like short stories, you’d be hard pressed to find better characterization elsewhere. It must also be noted that since this collection was written in 1932, the language used to describe any and all minorities is reflective of the time. I would recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed anything written by Steinbeck. I’m not sure it is a great introduction to Steinbeck but it’s not bad.