Chatsach’s rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Man this book is more depressing than the deepest sea where the Titanic rest. Just about every tragedy you can think of is placed in this novel, mostly in chronicle order although sometimes simultaneously. Horrible religious parents, low self-esteem and non-existing self-love for being “ugly” and “spinster”, marriage during teen pregnancy, poverty, hunger, robbery, still birth, union,… in the backdrop of the Dust storms of Depression era. It’s like death is actually a relief for this horrendous life of suffering. As much as I want to be impressed, this plot is all so familiar, perhaps you can say it is a shortened or feminized version of The Grapes of Wrath. I’m dreading reading this book. It’s just so sad.

I hated reading about people in the old time, always talking religious and moral but care not for the fucking lives of others. Ditching your daughter before going to church, classic. “This is a respectful Christian town.” “Don’t you question my faith.” How could people say that out loud without shame? How could they protest abortion but turn away from a woman in labor? Ironically, that’s exactly how Jesus was treated and shunned by his own people. I guess they exist in the present too, not just during the depression. Like the pastor with 6-million dollar mansion won’t open their church door for refugees. What exactly are they praying in those churches? No wonder religions are dying. There’re exceptions I supposed. Tony and Rose are examples of that.

Loreda is like the embodiment of everything you don’t want your daughter to become. What a ungrateful bitch and only twelve year old. Maybe that’s the problem when Elsa sheltered her too much from the truth. I hate how the narrative in her head telling us that she knows it’s not her mom’s fault but continuously acted up out of spite. I’m glad Grandma Rose is there to put this little brat in her place. The trip with her wasn’t easy. This kid clearly didn’t learn empathy through hardship or seeing people in hardship. Idk why but almost every conversation between this pair of mother and daughter is disagreement about everything. You can certainly see her growing with every disaster they faced, but sometimes you wish you didn’t have to read through her bitching so much.

I want to love Elsa or maybe just like her, but I’m so tired of her enduring everything in silence. It’s a starch constrast between her and Loreda, and her and Rose. Loreda continued on the journey while Rose stayed behind with Tony. I feel that had she spoken up more of her feelings and her past, Loreda would have been more understanding. But her stupid self-loathing was really what drove Loreda mad with anger, blaming her because she could.

I’ve read on goodreads some people commented how uncomfortable this book made them feel as it glorified communism. The ignorance cannot be masked just by reading book. While I don’t necessarily like this book, it simply depicted what’s going on during the time, what led to the rise of communism and establishing of worker unions in the US. Many workers’ protection laws came about because of unions. If you don’t understand the context of it, or how communism become about, you can’t really say you hate it. How can you sit and watch 8-year-old working in the field until his hands bleed. If communism is what makes you uncomfortable about this book instead of being uncomfortable for the misfortunes of immigrants’ lives, I will say that there’s a place in hell for you, together with those in “respectable Christians”.

Photo Credit: Leslie Lindsay