Jun 18, 2015

Reading Goals 2015: Fifth Book Review

The fifth book on my list of reading goals for this year is The Pearl by John Steinbeck, published in 1947, a short little novella of only 87 pages, practically a short story.  I had originally planned to read The Metamorphosis by Kafka but decided Steinbeck would be more enjoyable.

I began to read the book weeks ago but it sat on my bedside table overlooked in favor of other readings and doings and comings and goings. Why it took me 6 weeks to read the shortest book on my list, and what could have been read essentially in one sitting is one of those mysteries of life.

This book is commonly read in high school but somehow or another it escaped me. I'm not sure as a high school student I would have appreciated the story nearly as much as I did as an adult so in many ways I'm glad I encountered the story now and not then.

The Pearl tells the story of Kino, Juana and their baby Coyotito and is based on a Mexican folk tale of Baja, Mexico. Kino earns his living fishing off the Pacific coast. On one of his dives he finds the pearl.

The Pearl of the World.

The biggest pearl he has ever seen. The biggest pearl anyone has ever seen!

Kino dreams of how the pearl will change his life. He and Juana will be able to get married - in the Church. He will be able to buy new clothes and new shoes for all of them. And a new rifle, an unheard of luxury. But most importantly little Coyotito would be able to go to school.

"My son will read and open the books, and my son will write and will know writing. And my son will make numbers, and these things will make us free because he will know --- he will know and through him we will know."

The pearl does change his life but not in the way he expects.

The story is essentially a story of greed and evil and how it impacts people's lives. It was not only Kino's greed but the greed of others who coveted the pearl and went to great lengths to take it from him. 

John Steinbeck, 1902-1968
 Steinbeck was a gifted writer. His prose is almost poetic at times.

Before Kino and Juana and the other fishers had come to Kino's brush house, the nerves of the town were pulsing and vibrating with the news --- Kino had found the Pearl of the World. Before panting little boys could strangle out the words, their mothers knew it. The news swept on past the brush houses, and it washed in a foaming wave into the town of stone and plaster.

It wasn't very far into the story, the third page to be exact, that I discovered Steinbeck's world view, definitely NOT a Christian world view, not that I expected that to be the case.

Kino watched with the detachment of God while a dusty ant frantically tried to escape the sand trap an ant lion had dug for him.

The "detachment of God." The sentence stopped me in my tracks. The picture that sentence paints in my mind is just so terrible. I read it several times and pondered all that it meant. It was obvious that John Steinbeck had absolutely no knowledge of God, at least not the Eternal God that I know and Who is anything but detached. I never would have thought a short little book written by a non-believer would cause me to meditate on the character of God. But it did.

There are numerous verses from Scripture to refute the idea of a detached God and one passage that says it so well is found in Psalm 34:15-18

The eyes of the LORD are 
toward the righteous 
And His ears are open to their cry. 
The face of the LORD is against evildoers, 
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the LORD hears 
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted 
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Detached? No way.

The story stayed with me, like all good stories do. I kept thinking about the characters, and what they experienced. My heart was so drawn to Juana. What would I have done? How would I have responded? Definitely a sign of a good story! 

This is definitely a book to read! And I hope you get as much out of it as I did.


  1. I love love your book reviews. I agree with you in that the teens years or young adult years don't always have the repose to read some books. As we mature, our experiences mature, and we get so much more from books, and see so much, like you say.
    The plot seems so close to the book my girl is enamored by, The Black Pearl. The boy, Ramon, wants to find the biggest pearl in town, and when he does, it conjures jealousy, trouble, disbelief, strife!
    I may choose this as my novella, I had planned The Heart of Darkness. We should see!

  2. Thanks for your very kind words!

    The Black Pearl does sound a lot like Steinbeck's The Pearl. Of course the original story was based on a folk tale so anyone is free to tweak it however they like.

    It was a good, good story and I didn't mention half of the thoughts I had while reading. I hope you do read it.

  3. I find that many books are better read later in life. This is one I had always heard of but never actually had to study -- sounds like one to look for (and it's short!)

  4. I hope you add it to your stack. I don't think you'll be disappointed! Thanks for stopping by.


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