Book Review: The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
The Red Pony centers around a young boy named Jody during his adolescent years growing up on a ranch in Steinbeck's California. The book is actually made up of four novellas, each highlighting a part of Jody's life that changes him in some manner. From owning and losing his first horse to going to school to learning sage advice from his grandfather, Jody matures and grows through each experience. Each novella depicts a simple, everyday event in Jody's life, yet the impact and the power these events have over his childhood is anything but simple.
Steinbeck beautifully describes the transition from boyhood to manhood through these four short stories, and his writing, like his stories, is uncomplicated and easy to read. Yet his themes are complex: love, loss, loss of innocence, learning of the hardships of our elders. All of these themes shape Jody into a young, understanding man who seems ready to conquer the adult world by the last line of the book. Steinbeck uses very few characters in these stories, following only four main characters (Jody, his mother and father, and Billy Buck, the ranch hand) and how each story affects their lives. The stories center on Jody, but each of the four characters are well developed and fleshed out; you do not need much in the way of description or embellishment in order to see and relate to these characters. My favorite character was Billy Buck; his gentleness and understanding mixed with the rough and tumble nature of being a ranch hand makes him a complex and interesting character. Other characters feature in each of the stories, and these secondary characters play a vital role in the outcome of each story. Each of them teach Jody a life lesson he may not have necessarily learned from any other source; they come into Jody's life at the exact moment they needed to.
Overall, if you are questioning whether to read John Steinbeck, please read this book. It's short and very quick to read, but the characters and stories stay with you well after you have closed the book. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a coming of age story that will get into your head and heart and never let go.