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Barren Lives: 10/10/07
I first read Barren Lives ten years ago for a Brazilian cinema class taught by Robert Stam when he was guest lecturing at UCLA. The two classes of Stam's I took were among my favorites. In ten years, though, my memory of the book had faded and I wanted to give it one more read before sending it to another BookCrosser.
Barren Lives (1938) covers a brief period of time in the life of a family as they try to eke out a living as farm hands on a ranch in a small village. Thematically the book reminds me of The Grapes of Wrath (1939) by John Steinbeck except that the family is more hopeful in Barren Lives because they are still on the move at the end of the book. Steinbeck's family reaches the promised land (California) only to find poverty and exploitation.
The book is written in a straightforward manner. The text is as barren as the farm lands have been rendered by the drought. This simplicity makes the drought seem all the more real and the plight of the farming family more poignant.