This story is about the Joad family, who are poor farmers from Oklahoma that are driven off their land in the dustbowl at the beginning of the Great Depression. They, with thousands of others, make a pilgrimage to California expecting to find the Promised Land where they can work and live. When they get there they find that there is not enough work and they are hated for being there. Big companies use the conditions smash out the smaller competition and families starve.
I understand this book was quite controversial in its day. I can see why. It seems to offer a slap in the face at what can come out of unregulated capitalism. It also shows what will happen to the land and people if we don't consider what the long term impact of our choices will be. It also offers hope. It shows that what it takes to make big changes is for a few to stand up for what is right who are willing to be sacrificed for the cause, then the masses will eventually pick up the torch and carry on.
Something else I thought was fascinating about this book is that about every other chapter was not about the protagonist family, but about similar folks during the time. Those chapters seemed to be there to paint a picture of just what the conditions were at the time and then would return in the next chapter to the experiences of the Joad family. It really worked.
Absolutely brilliant book. I loved it.