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To a God Unknown (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) Paperback – August 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (August 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140187510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140187519
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

8 1-hour cassettes --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

About the Author

Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck is remembered as one of the greatest and best-loved American writers of the twentieth century. His complete works will be available in Penguin Modern Classics. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, achieved popular success in 1935 when he published Tortilla Flat. He went on to write more than twenty-five novels, including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men.

Customer Reviews

A story that will keep you reading on and on and then wishing that this story never ends.
WICKED WOMAN
I believe that many people fear reading Steinbeck, mainly because of the length and complexity of his two best known works, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden.
librarian's daughter
Like almost of all of Steinbeck's novels, it is beautifully written and full of vividly drawn people.
Jamie Elliott

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By RCM VINE VOICE on September 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
As always with John Steinbeck's novels, "To a God Unknown" is lyrically descriptive and intensely potent with emotion and meaning. The topic matter of this novel might seem like strange territory for the Steinbeck of "Cannery Row" or "Of Mice and Men", but is filled with his trademark depictions of men who have been broken by life trying to find their way. This time the novel focuses on Joseph Wayne and his family as they try to eek out a living in the valley of Nuestra Senora in California.

Joseph Wayne leaves his family and dying father in Vermont to fulfill his dreams of owning his own land in the vast unknown country. After he has established his farm, he receives news that his father has passed away, and his brothers shortly come to live with him at his ranch. The Wayne family experiences every prosperity the land has to offer and happiness settles on them; however, Joseph believes that this prosperity is due to the spirit of his father who resides in the great oak tree he built his house next too. He daily offers news and sacrifices (of a sort) to the tree as a way of thanksgiving. This worries his devoutly Christian brother Burton, who eventually destroys the tree when he leaves the ranch. As soon as the tree is destroyed and dying, disaster settles upon the ranch and the Wayne family.

After the disaster strikes, Steinbeck takes readers along on Joseph's quest as he madly searches for the meaning behind the dying land and a way to bring it back to life. In his search, he means to leave no stone unturned, no matter what the sacrifice. "To a God Unknown" is a compelling examination of man's fate and beliefs. The story is beautifully told with vivdly poetic descriptions of the land. And yet the characters seem to lack some luster, some thread of reality.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
"To A God Unknown" is Steinbeck's disturbing treatment of spirituality, superstition, and the power of faith. This is a story that will stick to the ribs of the thoughtful reader. At turns horrific and beautiful, this is a book to be read at intervals in the course of the life of a spiritual seeker. You will be haunted by the truths found beneath the hard stones of Steinbeck's simple language, and will find yourself returning again to this disturbing kingdom of the soul. Combining elements of Christianity, Paganism, and free-form superstition, this book may well cause you to reassess your thoughts on the nature of the mind and of god.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
Every great once in a while, a gem of a story falls into your hands, and so it is with "To A God Unknown". I have never understood why this book has not received the notoriety that it well deserves. It is truly Steinbeck's sleeper.
I have recently been reading some of the current 'bestsellers' and the Oprah books and have become thoroughly disillusioned and disgusted with what we're killing trees to produce. I think it's time to reread something worthwhile.
If only J.S. could be reincarnated.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By kkrome25 on March 7, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The story is based on man's relationship with the land. On another level, it re-enacts the ancient ritual of sacrifice in return for rain and thus crops and life itself. It retells the ages-old worship of wooden gods and animism. It leaves one to wonder if we had ever purged ourselves of these "ways" but rather embedded them further within ourselves in these "modern" times. It is a pagan theme that goes throughout. Beautifully written, the heart and feel of the California landscape never left me doubting as to where this is. If you've ever spent time in the valley, the descriptions hit home. If you've never been, it will prepare you mentally and perhaps physically, for the heat. And in the little oases of wood and stream, he has captured the coolness and mystic qualities that still exist today. From a premier California storyteller, this is a California jewel.
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 16, 1997
Format: Hardcover
John Steinbeck's "To A God Unknown" reached into my soul and what emerged was a clearer sense of myself. This novel truly spoke to me. It is known that Steinbeck had an adversity toward organized religion, and that fact is evident in the text of this book. What struck me most was the insight into paganism and the worship of nature in its truest, rawest form. Man living in harmony with nature is a recurring theme along with the fact that humans must not desecrate the earth for monetary gains, but rather must understand nature and live within nature's guidelines. Steinbeck's lyrical prose confirms these beliefs that I hold close to my heart
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jamie Elliott on June 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
To a God Unknown is a book full of powerful images. Reading about the mossy stone in its lonely pine grove still makes me shudder, and I am not a superstitious or particularly spiritual person. To the protagonist Joseph, the land is god and god is everything, and it exacts great and terrible payments for the fertility and life that Joseph craves. Like almost of all of Steinbeck's novels, it is beautifully written and full of vividly drawn people. However in other ways it is very unlike most of his novels. It isn't funny, not even a little, and it isn't quite about people. I can't quite describe what it is about (the interconnectedness of all life? human longing for kinship with nature? fate?), or adequately explain the feelings it evokes in me.
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