Dog-Eared Reads

Why novelist Brad Smith will never tire of John Steinbeck's classic The Grapes of Wrath

The author of The Return of Kid Cooper on why he rereads John Steinbeck's novel every few years.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is one of Brad Smith's favourite books. ( Lorraine Sommerfeld/Penguin Random House)

Brad Smith is a writer from Dunnville, Ont. In addition to publishing several novels, he has worked as a farmer, bartender, truck driver and a teacher. His new novel is called The Return of Kid Cooper, and it's about a cowboy in Montana in 1910, who has been released from prison after serving 30 years for a murder he did not commit.

One of his favourite books is the 1939 classic The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

On the despair

"Of all the novels I have read, this one always draws me back in every few years. It's such an evocative time and such an important novel. The Joads leaving Oklahoma and heading to California, totally convinced that it was the land of plenty out there, is such a story of despair. Then you get into the political stuff in California with the union busters. I'm interested in blue collar types and there is nobody more blue collar than the people in The Grapes of Wrath."

On the humanity

"There is something in the way he alternates chapters — he writes about what's going on in one chapter and in the next, he writes about the Joad family and repeats. It's one of those books that has a really uplifting ending even though nothing has been solved. The Tom Joad character goes off into the wilderness and tells his mom that he is going to be there whenever kids were hungry. There was something so human and uplifting about Sharon nursing the starving man in the last page."

Brad Smith's comments have been edited and condensed.