“Failure is a state of mind. It's like one of those sand traps an ant lion digs. You keep sliding back. Takes one hell of a jump to get out of it.”
― John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent
This book is about you, especially if you're ambitious.
Ethan Hawley is an intelligent, honest, but hopelessly poor middle-aged grocery store clerk who decides he's going to do whatever it takes to build a fortune and win back the respect of his wife, children and his community.
He notices that almost every rich man in his town got their money by doing shady things, one way or another. He also points out that because they have lasting money, everyone else forgets these men's transgressions because they're rich. From these observations, he concludes that:
Money has a short memory
Money involves breaking the rules and going to war
Becoming rich is going to involve giving up his morals. He wonders:
"If I opened that door, could I ever get it closed again? I did not know. I could not know until I had opened it... "
‘And if I should put the rules aside for a time, I knew I would wear scars but would they be any worse than the scars of failure I was wearing? I can’t think of any. To be alive is to have scars.’
This book is his journey to figure out for himself if his endeavors towards wealth are worth the price on his soul.
At the end you'll be you thinking, "I could never... or could I?" And that's where this book is brilliant. I really like Ethan. I understand him on a deep level. He's a reasonable man. I feel like we are the same in many ways.
And I can see his path and I understand it.
This book was Steinbeck's final novel, and one that the Nobel committee singled out when they awarded him the Nobel Prize for Literature. It's definitely worth a read, and will have me thinking on it for quite some time.
Rating: 4/5. I loved it, it's so beautiful and painful and all of the characters really come to life. At times, his money making plans become a bit much and I skimmed a bit. The ending also had me say "What the fuck?!" out loud because it seemed out of character to me. But overall a fantastic book.
Book Link: here
PS- In 2020, is there a more appropriate title than "The Winter of our Discontent"?