Fiction as Self-Help -The Pearl

I usually do a fair bit of research before I write about the books I’ve read. I get links and read opinions, critiques, and histories of the authors. Then, I sit down to write. That won’t be happening today.

I will give you a link to the book on Amazon – HERE. Other than that, I have not read anything that anyone else has said.

I am writing stream-of-consciousness, which I suspect is what my mother hoped when she recommended the book to me. You see, Steinbeck is one of her fave writers, and this book, in particular, is among her most cherished. Therefore, this post is tagged, “Mom’s Pick”.

What you also need to know – as printed on the back of the book – is that it was a winner of The Nobel Prize in Literature.

With that preamble, I give you, The Pearl by John Steinbeck. <<< Link also from the back of the book.

It was first published in 1945.

With all that said, you may wonder why I chose to write about this book in this way?

It’s like this…

If everything happens for a reason – and you know I believe that it does – then I am supposed to read this book for a reason.

I never EVER would have picked it up unbidden because I’ve never been a Steinbeck fan. I don’t dislike him or anything… it’s just that I am an earlier, grislier classics lover… think Dickens.

I also like Hemingway… and I think it’s more about his demeanor than his talent, to be honest. However, one of my fave quotes is his… well… it’s bastardized because we no longer use typewriters. The original went something like: “There is nothing to writing. You just sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” The newer version is something like, “There is nothing to writing. You just sit down and bleed.” Either way makes perfect sense to me. But – as usual – I digress.

So, this book… this tiny book of 89 pages…

*I could not put down*.

So much so, in fact, that I took it to work with me and read it on my breaks and lunch.

As I read, I felt, at turns, joyful, exhilarated, and horrified. More than once, I asked myself, “Why am I reading this? What is the message for me?”

The writing is exquisite. Let’s get that out of the way, as Gordon Ramsay would say. Absolutely exquisite.

The story is based on a Mexican folktale.

The setting is beautiful, unsettling, simplistic… primal.

The lessons are legion.

It’s impossible to write about without giving spoilers.

How will I do this?

Okay, let’s try this…

There is a family – a man, his partner (a woman), and their son. They are part of a community that lives off the sea and by their wits and talents. It is a simple life and one he loves.


Something terrible happens. His family is in trouble. They need money – and pronto. Prayers are said. The sea gives up a treasure in the form of a pearl. It is the largest, most beautiful, and most valuable pearl anyone has ever seen.

Problem solved?

Not quite.

What happens to this family – each member – as they move forward through the story is both an education about light and shadow in humanity and a view into the evil that lies beneath.

Oh yes, there is also a love that transcends.

Both threads weave throughout the story. As does a musical score. That doesn’t make sense, I know, because I wasn’t listening to the book, I was reading it. But it’s there. I promise you — it is there. You hear it… in the lapping of the sea and the crescendos that come again and again. It is the undercurrent… the glue… that ends on a note you do not expect.

When I finished, I put the book down and wondered again what was in it for me…

I’ll tell you what I decided…

The pearl is what we think we need.

When in fact, we have everything we need already.

Can it really be that simple?

Yes – and no – and you’ll dive into your own depths to figure out what it means to you.

For someone like me, who has thrashed around for years trying to untangle myself from past decisions, it says…

Let go. Float to the surface. Feel the sun on your face. Your reward is not on the bottom of the sea but up here… among the living.

And that’s all I’ll say about that.

This book is spectacular.

*I would be remiss not to mention that the book has a short but graphic scene of domestic violence that will take your breath away. I don’t like mentioning it because it does present a bit of a spoiler but I think you should be forewarned, should reading about it cause harm / PTSD.


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