Skip to content

Book Review: Tortilla Flat

June 9, 2014

If Tortilla Flat had been my first exposure to John Steinbeck it’s likely I wouldn’t have gone back for more. I thought the book was dismal, which, by itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and boring, which, by itself or not, always is.

What’s the story about… A group of friends, all of them drunks and untrustworthy, sit around getting drunk and telling stories. When they’re not sitting around getting drunk and telling stories, they’re thinking of ways – not always legal or ethical ways – to get money so they can get the next gallon of wine. Aside from these characters being people I would want to avoid, I didn’t feel anything for any of them with the exception of the Pirate, but he was such a minor character that despite his actions being important to the story, he himself really wasn’t.

This is harsh and I don’t mean to say that Tortilla Flat is trash because it’s not. Far from it. As you would expect, the writing is good. And there are beautiful themes running throughout the book: friendship, love, trust, compassion, acceptance, spirituality, the beauty and joy of simplicity in life. And the universal messages of love and loyalty are messages we all need, especially in today’s world. The problem for me with Tortilla Flat was that I’m a story driven sort of person and there just wasn’t a whole lot of story holding everything together. Because of that I wasn’t able to accept the group of friends and embrace them and be with them the way I think Steinbeck wanted me to.

Would I recommend Tortilla Flat? Absolutely. Would I ever reread it? More than likely not.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2014 4:51 pm

    I loved the book – but I read it forty years ago when I was hitch-hiking around the country. I wonder how I’d like it today.


    • Michael Fishman permalink*
      June 12, 2014 4:50 pm

      It’s a quick read, it might be worth the time to find out. If you do, I’d like to hear your 40-year-later reaction.


If you leave me a comment I'll give you a cookie!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: