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Tobacco Road

Narrated by: John MacDonald
Length: 5 hrs and 22 mins
4 out of 5 stars (72 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Set during the Depression in the depleted farmlands surrounding Augusta, Georgia, Tobacco Road was first published in 1932. It is the story of the Lesters, a family of white sharecroppers so destitute that most of their creditors have given up on them. Debased by poverty to an elemental state of ignorance and selfishness, the Lesters are preoccupied by their hunger, sexual longings, and fear that they will one day descend to a lower rung on the social ladder than the black families who live near them.

Caldwell's skillful use of dialect and his plain style make the book one of the best examples of literary naturalism in contemporary American fiction. The novel was adapted as a successful play in 1933.

©1932 Erskine Caldwell (P)1998 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Caldwell's book is...well served by this classy performance, which manages to highlight the realism amid the rambunctiousness." ( AudioFile)
"An original, mature approach to people who ignore the civilization that contains them as completely as it ignores them." ( The Nation)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 05-21-18

Preachers has got to preach against something.

“He sometimes said it was partly his own fault, but he believed steadfastly that his position had been brought about by other people.”
― Erskine Caldwell, Tobacco Road

Sometimes, when I'm unable to understand Georgia's ability to support and defend Judge Roy Moore, it helps to read a little bit of Erskine Caldwell. 'Tobacco Road' reminds me a bit of Hemingway, a bit of Twain, and a bit of Steinbeck. It is both a social justice novel and a darkly comic novel that paints the ugly corners of human poverty and depravity. The Lesters are a family of white sharecropers that are basically rotting into the earth. Social and economic norms and even the family are lost. Religion is abused. Even new cars are abused and quickly swallowed by the Earth. The land is fallow, burned, and everything is going to Hell.

It is a good thing the novel was so short, because it was painful to read.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

The Depression is Depressing

This is an unsympathetic view of depression-era life in Georgia. The opening scene of the Lester family stealing turnips from their son-in-law, Love, deploying their own hare-lip daughter as bait, is a stomach-turning incident. Because of the unsympathetic view, readers will find no character as morally praiseworthy. Each character has multiple foibles, and those failings overwhelm any depiction. Unlike the more famous Grapes of Wrath, the depression is so all-encompassing as to leave no hope for any of the characters, with all of the characters falling victim to their circumstances in some manner.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • chris
  • las vegas, NV, United States
  • 07-18-10

No Grapes of Wrath

Audible doesn't carry Grapes of Wrath at this point, but this book is a lesser-known, not as epic story of depression-era people living on a farm in Georgia. I thought the narration was great and it makes for a great short book. It lacked the seriousness of grapes of wrath, but was enjoyable not as a deep life-changing novel. I liked it.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Parody Sublime

Erskine Caldwell isn't much read in these parts today -- but he should be. His ear for the language of the sand hills of Georgia is sublime, his ability to portray a swath of the forgotten south unparalleled. Those who contend this south never existed are mistaken. All you need do today is take out an electoral map and you will see the flaming red that consumed the Lesters' home still raging.

John Macdonald's telling of this tale was nothing short of masterful. Caldwell would have approved.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 05-03-19

Funny Eugenics

This was on the Modern Library Critics Best 100 list but I did not find it compelling.
The characters are depression era share croppers in Georgia and most of the "humor" is expressed through incidents based on lack of education, motivation, self-control, and intelligence. This was laughing at, not laughing with. I did not find any of it the least bit funny. Instead it was deeply sad and even dangerous. Dangerous because these stories were used at the time as arguments for the eugenic sterilization of the poor and uneducated.

The prose were otherwise good, but the story is very one-dimensional and very repetitive.

There is a significant amount of strong racist language.

The narration is pretty close to perfect. It is clear, with great characterization and emotionality.

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  • Kelly
  • Colorado Springs
  • 12-18-18

Devastatingly Sad. Devastatingly Funny.

Jeeter Caldwell and his family have always been poor, and when the Great Depression hit they are the poor sharecroppers in the south who found themselves starving to death. In this book we Mr Caldwell exposes us to the racism and classism of the day. The book is tragic and sad, and yet it is also filled with humor. Some of the moments surrounding the automobile are the funniest I have read in a long time. I could picture many people thinking and acting this way towards cars when they were first introduced to their families.

The ending of the book is shocking and devastating.

In many, many ways this book reminds me of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. (And for me that is a very good thing.)

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Ridiculous story line

Terrible story and inaccurate portrayal of southerners. Repetitive and goes no where. Would not recommend

0 of 2 people found this review helpful