This post contains affiliate links. When I was in high school, I read as many John Steinbeck books as I could. My favorite was The Grapes of Wrath (and it’s still one of my favorite all-time books today). I liked nearly all of the books that I read, except maybe Travels with Charley, though I think if I went back to read that as an adult, I would like it. So, when I saw The Red Pony by John Steinbeck as one of Cuddle Bug’s reading assignments, I was excited. Finally, I would have a chance to introduce one of my kids to a writer I love. Unfortunately, The Red Pony wasn’t a good introduction.
About The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
The Red Pony is a novella comprised of four chapters that are each their own short story. Each can stand alone, but they all follow the same characters living on a ranch in the Salinas Valley. The protagonist is young Jody, a 10-year-old boy. He’s also joined by his abrasive, sometimes cruel father, Carl Tiftin, his mother, and the ranch hand, Billy Buck.
In the first story, Carl Tiftin determines Jody is old enough to raise a red pony. Jody is proud of his horse and takes good care of him, but then something happens that deeply affects Jody.
In the second story, an old man who grew up on the ranch decades ago comes back because he wants to die on the land on which he was born.
The third story tells of Nellie, a pregnant mare who Carl has promised Jody he can raise.
The fourth story explores the relationship between Jody and his maternal grandfather who did great things in his youth but now only has his past adventures to relive over and over.
My Thoughts on The Red Pony
I can’t remember if I read this book before when I was younger. I don’t think I did because I think I would remember such heart-wrenching stories. Steinbeck’s writing makes readers deeply feel the characters’ pain, and feel it we did! After the first story, Cuddle Bug declared she didn’t want to read any more of the novel. Slowly, we did finish the book, but I think it might have traumatized her a bit. Let’s just say she doesn’t have a great impression of Steinbeck right now. Even I was surprised by some of the brutality in the stories. This was a tough read!
I give The Red Pony by John Steinbeck 4 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.