This is also published on my Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1648312705
I’d seen Gary Sinise’s well-made 1992 movie of the book (starring himself and John Malkovich), but this was the first time I got a chance to read Steinbeck. This timeless classic is more of a novella, clocking in at just a little over a hundred pages, but the emotional wrangle it manages in those pages lasts much longer than the time taken to read it.
Lennie and George are two drifters during the Great Depression who move from ranch to ranch working as farm hands and mostly having to move around on account of the troubles Lenny gets into. For Lennie is huge in size but not totally sound of mind and despite being a gentle giant at heart, inadvertently gets into unsavory situations. George, on the other hand, is sharp of mind and tries to make sure they (Specifically Lennie) stay out of trouble. For these two always travel together, looking out for each other, which seems a novelty on a world of each man for himself. They have a dream too, which Lennie heart-achingly keeps asking George to describe to him, of the land they will get and the rabbits he will tend.
The whole story actually happens over a day or two in the ranch they finally end up in (in California’s Salinas Valley) before fateful events lead it to its inevitable conclusion. It’s mostly heartbreaking stuff, with Lennie’s disposition and George’s desire to protect him making one realize that this brotherly bond seems to be heading to only eventual disaster. Anyone who has lived with or cared for someone with mental illness will understand the feeling of despondent futility one feels when one of your loved ones is afflicted as such. And the hopelessness of life during the depression is another theme captured, with jobs tough to come by and the moral fabric of people put under severe stress.
This is a timeless tale of friendship, loyalty and loss and relevant in any day and age.