Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell

This is one of the Time Top 100 novels that happened to be at my library when I was in need of a book.

Published: 1932

Genre: fiction

Length: 184 pages

Setting: near Augusta, Georgia, 1920s

Summary: We follow along a couple of days in the lives of the Lesters, a pitiful family living in an abandoned sharecropper house. Jeeter, the father, wants nothing more than to plant cotton in the fields around “his” house. He can’t get any of the necessary supplies, though, because he has no money and no credit. Ada, the mother, sits around wishing for food and reminiscing about all her children who left home and never came back. Pearl, one of those kids, was married to Lov at age 12, but refuses to have anything to do with him. She runs away to Augusta, which allows Ellie May, her sister with a cleft palate, to go live with Lov (who actually has money and a job). Dude, the only other child still at home, ends up marrying Bessie, a much older “preacher.” He basically just wants to drive her car around, which he manages to wreck in two days. Lastly is the grandmother, who is essentially a ghost living on scraps. Dude accidentally runs her over and she’s left in the yard for a while.

Final thoughts: A fascinating book. It reminded me somewhat of The Grapes of Wrath in the general hopelessness of everyone, but I liked the writing style much better. It was a short book, but I couldn’t put it down. Apparently it was made into a movie in 1941.

Title comes from: The road that ran in front of the Lester’s house was the old tobacco road that followed the ridge to take the tobacco to market.

Reading challenges fulfilled: none since this is a review from a book I read ten years ago

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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