Books on the Vale Book Club's reading list can be checked out at the Vale Library. (Enterprise file photo)

VALE – Members of the Vale Book Club shared a summer’s worth of reading experience when they met Sept. 9 at the home of Twilla Hayden.

The meeting was the first of a new club season after a summer hiatus. The session compared two books: Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction “Nomadland” and the classic John Steinbeck novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” Their summation follows:

Although set 50 years apart, both works describe responses to American economic calamity.

 “The Grapes of Wrath” delved into the response of an already poverty-stricken subgroup during the Great Depression. It was set in a time when years of drought, ignorance about proper farming methods, and the emergence of mechanization was causing thousands of poor share croppers to leave their homes and seek agriculture work in the promised land of California.

The Bruder book examined the impact of the economic downturn in 2008, which resulted in devastating losses for people who appeared to not have planned wisely or far enough in advance.

While Steinbeck’s migrants moved West in cobbled together trucks, the modern nomads traveled in vehicles and campers. Their search for seasonal manual labor led to Amazon fulfillment centers where they could earn enough to get to the next seasonal offering. Similarities in the experiences included an excess of labor resulting in lower wages with no benefits or safe working conditions. The land and corporate owners were free to exploit the laborers.

The differences included the fact that real starvation occurred in this country during the Dust Bowl outmigration. However, in both experiences, types of mutual support emerged when it was needed the most. In both accounts, there were plans for something better and strains of hope.

Reading Steinbeck’s narrative of the “Okies,” it’s notable that this prize-winning book was censored in many communities due to “sexual” content. The most shocking part for the censors was when Rose of Sharon, who had just delivered a stillborn baby due to poor nutrition, nursed an adult man dying from starvation. That was the closing note of hope. She gave the only thing she had to give.

Book Club members also did a copious amount of other summer reading. Here are some examples.

• Theda Craig enjoyed part of an 18-book action series by Robert Crais following the adventures of private detectives Cole and Pike. She also recommended “A Column of Fire” by Ken Follett, a novel about Catholic and Protestant conflict set in the 1500s.

• Doreen deAngeles read “The Winter King,” about King Arthur by Bernard Cornwell.

• Twilla Hayden enjoyed part of the science fiction Expanse series by James Corey and “John’s Story: the Last Eyewitness” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. She also shared a copy of an anthology of short stories “Kaleidescope,” all written using the theme of colors. Her son, Mike Vandeventer, is one of the authors. 

• Eunice Boden recommended “In Search of the 12 Apostles” by William Stewart McBirnie.

• Marge Mitchell enjoyed “13 Moons” by Charles Fraser, the author of “Cold Mountain,” about a Cherokee reservation storekeeper. She also recommended the Chet and Bernie Mystery Series by Spencer Quinn, a 12-book series which can be read in any order. They are humorous but creditable mysteries. Chet is a dog and the books are written from his perspective. Sample titles: “Dog on It,” “To Fetch a Thief,” “Thereby Hangs a Tail,” and “Paw and Order.”

The club will discuss “The Book of Lost Friends,” by Lisa Wingate, at its Thursday, Oct. 7, meeting, facilitated by Hayden.

– Submitted by Lucy Hutchens.

For more information about the book club, call Hutchens, 208-739-6954, or Marge Mitchell, 208-739-6777.