Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Carrie Meeber is from a small city who seeks to go to her sister in Chicago to have a better life. However, when she gets there she realizes the fact that her sister and her brother in law are in a very wretched condition together with their daughter. Unable to endure their apathy when she fails to secure herself a job, Carrie decided to leave. Before she even arrived in Chicago, she met Druet, a wealthy young man on the train who really likes her due to her beauty. So right after quitting her job at the factory, Carrie accidentally met Drouet around the street corners. He treats her a meal and often buys her beautiful clothing and jewelry which made her think in his favor. And thus, soon they were living together in a comfortable flat.

But it wasn’t soon when Drouet introduced Carrie to his manager friend Hurstwood. Lured by his gentleness and suave manner, Carrie fell in love with him and he with her. However, since Hurstwood was not in a relationship with his wife and his children, he lied to Carrie and said that he was unmarried. One day, Hurstwood under the influence of alcohol accidentally took ten thousand dollars from the cashier’s unlocked box and decided to flee to New York. He wheedled Carrie into escaping with him as well and so the two left for New York. However, life was not as easy there because everything was more expensive. After several unsuccessful attempts at finding a satisfactory job, Hurstwood depended on Carrie to earn and they again fell into the state of poverty.

Just then, due to her looks, passion, and aptitude for singing and acting, Carrie made a career in the theatre. She was well-liked by a lot of rich people and thus deserted Hurstwood. Although she regularly supported him somewhat, she severed the relationship at last when Hurstwood, due to his pride, stopped asking money from Carrie and suicided at last.

-Coreen C.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

 

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeanette Walls describing her turbulent childhood years, and how she and her siblings survived poverty and neglect against all odds. Her father was an alcoholic who she longed to trust, but who let her down time and time again. Her mother was an artist with her head in the clouds, with little grip on the realities of hunger and child safety. The Walls family lived a “nomadic” lifestyle, often voluntarily living without a roof over their heads. Despite the many struggles of their childhood, the Walls children became successful in life. They succeed in spite of their parents.

The tone of the novel is set when within the first chapter, Jeannette burns herself cooking food over an open flame (at age three) and her father subsequently breaks her out of a hospital. What follows are the many, some humorous, several depressing, exploits of Jeanette’s father Rex Walls. One of the main focuses of the memoir is Jeannette’s relationship with Rex, who cares for her deeply, but who can’t give up alcohol for his children. An ongoing question that the reader must ask is whether this love is genuine, and whether his stated care for Jeanette justifies his many flaws. Rex always promised his children that he would build them a house made entirely of glass- a glass castle. It is up to the reader to interpret whether this castle was ever intended to be built.

This book truly is a must-read. It is not simply a novel; it is a recording of real life. It is full of danger and emotion, and brimming with moments that will make you laugh, and (quite often) cry. If you are looking for a page turner of a success story, look no further.

-Mirabella S.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Set during the Great Depression, this novel follows the story of the Joad family on their journey from Oklahoma to California. We as the readers are able to truly see the hardships that many farmers faced during this time, both with difficulty in growing crops and in difficulty moving westward. Steinbeck narrates this novel in an interesting way, with every chapter about the Joad family being followed by “interlude” chapters that offer somewhat of a broader perspective of events happening throughout the nation. Though these interlude chapters do not directly have any relation to the story of the Joads, they are still quite important as they are Steinbeck’s way of voicing some of his opinions with what he saw in society during that time.

Throughout the Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck really develops the theme of community and togetherness. Whether it be family, friends, or the nation as a whole, Steinbeck shows throughout the novel that people are better and stronger together, and that family is one of the most important things of one’s life. The loyalty of the Joads to one another, and friendship gained along the way help display this point that Steinbeck is trying to get across. Though the novel was highly controversial around the time it came out, it is an extremely important novel that gives an in-depth perspective of the Great Depression, and strongly pushes forward the importance of togetherness.

-Kobe L.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, one of the most acclaimed authors of America, was written almost a century ago about the Dust Bowl, but still manages to evoke emotion to this day.

The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family and some friends, who have lived in one home as farmers in Oklahoma for many generations, but are forced off the land by the government as a devastating drought wrecks the Midwest. They, along with thousands if not millions of other unfortunate families, head to California in search of a better life as fruit pickers, but it’s an extremely difficult journey. With one creaky caravan that can hardly go a hundred miles without breaking down, and very little cash or backup, it’s a risky trip that eventually leads to two family members dying along the way and one deserting. But even when they finally reach the promised land of California, the Joads face discrimination and realize that what the poster advertising the help needed on farms of California didn’t tell the entire story.

Steinbeck has a unique diction and syntax. He often writes a chapter composed entirely of dialogues without quotes and no narration, choosing instead to let snatches of conversations of nameless characters set the mood and paint the scene. It’s very effective, even more so as Steinbeck writes the words as they sound in Southern accent that catches your attention. He is also very descriptive and incorporates a plethora of literary devices. But most importantly, the issues he wrote about are still relevant and relatable today, and the death of a character feels as real as it does in life. The Grapes of Wrath is a very good read and there is no wonder why it’s deemed “the most American of American classics”.

-Michael Z.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive for free. 

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Image result for a single shard plotAn orphan boy named Tree-ear lives in a village in 12th-century Korea. Tree-ear lives under a bridge with Crane-man, a very nice but destitute vagabond. Tree-ear’s story begins after watching a potter named Master Min make flawless potteries.

Nowadays, it’s hard for us to imagine how bad conditions might be if our parents passed away. Often times, books are not just elucidating a story to us, but also teach us lessons for life. When children in our modern society are asking for a brand new iPhone X, Tree-ear was busy scrounging for food.

One day, Tree-ear was a little avid to take a peek at Min’s pottery, so he sneaked into his backyard but accidentally broke a pot. You can’t really say it’s a calamity for him, but a surprise. As recompense, Tree-ear lived in Min’s house and learned how to make potteries until one day he was being sent to the King and exhibit him Min’s masterpiece. It wasn’t until the village dwindled its shabby shadow he realized that his life’s been edited.

This book incorporated a lot of life lessons that everybody needs to learn. If life gives you an absinthe, someday you will receive a fondant.

-April L.

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Image result for tortilla flatThis story is set in a place called Tortilla Flat in Monterey, California. It’s about five men that are paisanos (compatriots). They are Danny, Pilon, Pablo, Jesus Maria, and Pirate. These men are attracted to money and content with being friends with each other, they all walk their own bitter life path.

Danny was an heir who inherited two huge houses from his grandpa and invited his friend Pilon to stay. Through his innocence, Pilon’s rent money is postponed but he accidentally burns the house down. To cover compensation, the other men introduced earlier joined the group, but still, nobody offered rent money to Danny. And amazingly, Danny never mentioned the money to his astute tenants.

In real life, we all know that if you don’t pay the money, the next day you will be finding yourself without a house. Such a character like Danny really doesn’t exist at all in our brutal society. This book to me mainly molded the variety of personalities beneath the harsh satin of this world, but we all have similarities with each other: we are gullible to our friends and we all have greediness hidden within us for the cravings of money and wealth.

-April L

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

When I think of poverty, I think of homelessness, starvation, sadness and hopelessness. I would never have thought that it could be adventurous and fun. But Jeannette Walls does not hold back and tells everything about poverty you never would have known.

In The Glass Castle, Walls tells the true story of her childhood. She grows up in the roughest parts of poverty with her two sisters, brother and parents. They constantly move all over the country. Which the kids think are adventures, but really, the parents are running from bills and responsibilities.

At first I was very skeptical of this book. My mom recommended it to me and sometimes when parents say you should read a book it can be super slow and super educational. I was worried the writing would make this interesting plot turn boring. But luckily, Walls is an amazing writer. She makes you feel like you are right there with them every time they leave in the middle of the night.

Normally when I love a book I read it as quickly as possible, but for this one I didn’t. I felt the need to soak in every situation. Sometimes, I had to put the book down and walk away before I began to read again because it got so intense. I highly recommend this book for anyone who understands funky families (which we all do) and it is definitely one of my favorites. And I hope the movie is just as good!

-Sophie W.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library