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Tobacco Road

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3.73  ·  Rating details ·  11,779 Ratings  ·  587 Reviews

Set during the Depression in the depleted farmlands surrounding Augusta, Georgia, Tobacco Road was first published in 1922. 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

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Audio Cassette, 0 pages
Published April 1st 1932 by Recorded Books (first published 1932)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Teresa
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Howard
Probably thirty years ago, if not longer, I read the play based on this novel and until now that's all I knew of the book, besides its being steeped in controversy. I understand why it is, but I think those who take offense are looking at only one part of the picture. If you believe Caldwell is mocking the poor sharecroppers, then what is he saying about the townspeople who mercilessly ridicule them, and in their hearing, also cheating them of the little bit of money they might have? None of tha ...more
Cathy DuPont
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Palatka, Florida, 36 miles from where I live in St. Augustine, the Latimer Arts Center (Prairie School of architecture and quite lovely) Larimer Arts Center served as the county library from 1930 until 1992. Atop the arched entranceway are the phrases “Ignorance Breeds Crime” and “Knowledge is Power.” These two phrases have always intrigued me especially since I never thought of Palatka as the center of knowledge in northeast Florida. (In part, I must admit that comment is due to a local riva ...more
Margitte
BLURB
"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 someday descend to a lower rung on the social ladder than the black families who liv
...more
Melanie Hierholzer
I am amazed that so many people on this website just did not get this book. Perhaps it has to do with their innate feelings about people from the South. Maybe they should look to own their prejudices.

This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. While there were certain humorous passages, I did not find this book in the least bit funny, and I cannot understand the thinking of anyone who did.

The Lesters were a family who were caught up in the end of an era - the era of sharecropping, b
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Sue
Such a harsh story of hard times in a hard place. Though the Lesters definitely appear to be more a type than a real family (in fact no one seems particularly real) rural poverty certainly was (and still is) real. There are many messages here about the loss of land, the state of tenant farmers, etc, but there are also messages about personal responsibility.

I have seen Tobacco Road labeled as satire -- and I wondered given the degree of realism present. But then I think of Granny behind the china
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Scot
Sep 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once considered a classic of American literature, but rarely read today, I suspect, unless it is assigned, Tobacco Road is the remarkable story of the antics and tribulations of a destitute white trash family, the Lesters, written by Erskine Caldwell, and was later adapted into a play that was popular in the 1930s, and then adapted again to film by Nunnally Johnson in 1941. First published in 1932, it was followed the next year by Caldwell's other great work on poor whites in the South, God's Li ...more
``Laurie
Feb 19, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, fiction
Back in the early 1980's, when I lived in Augusta, Georgia, there was a country backroad outside of town called Tobacco Road. I had heard of the book with this title and I wondered if this was just a coincidence or was this the setting for the book Tobacco Road.

Curious, I checked the book out of the library and found out that yes indeed, this road was the setting for this unrelenting tale of horror.

I didn't realize at the time that Caldwell wrote this book in order to justify eugenics and the cl
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Richard Derus
Book Circle Reads 148

Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: University of Georgia Press's sales copy--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
...more
Diane Barnes
May 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick read but not an easy read. I have no idea how to do a review of this book. First thing is to categorize it in my mind.

Tragedy? Too many comic moments in this book for that.
Comedy? Likewise, too much tragedy to give it that.
Love story? Not unless you count Lov's love of Pearl's yellow
hair curling down her back.
Documentary? Hmmmmm.......
Okay, that's not going to work.

Let's try this - just exactly what was Caldwell trying to say about these people? Did he love them or hate them? Was he ma
...more
Duane
Quote from Slate critic Dwight Garner: "Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road is a greasy hairball of a novel; one of the sickest and most lurid books to have emerged from the literature of the South". I can't disagree because it contains derogatory slurs against African Americans, women, the elderly, people with disabilities. There are references to incest, prostitution, child marriage. Well, you get the idea. Yet you can find this novel on several lists of best novels of the 20th century.

The people
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Howard
Second Reading.

Nathaniel Rich writes on "The Daily Beast" website, "As a comedy, Tobacco Road is a modest failure; as a tragedy, it is an abject failure" and that the novel is "as indelible as a freak show or car crash." Dwight Garner on the "Slate" website called it "a greasy hairball of a novel....one of the sickest and most lurid books to have emerged from the literature of the American South." Both writers, however, proceed to give the novel a generally positive review. Their conflicted resp
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bjartur
Brutal. Horrific. Terrifying.

Tobacco Road has haunted me for days. The characters and their shenanigans have permeated my subconscious. I cannot help but dwell on it even when I am not actively reading.

Jeeter Lester and his family are unforgettable. They live in rural Georgia during the height of the Great Depression and practically starving to death on their sharecropper cotton farm. The men are amoral, ruthless, and liars. The women have physical deformities and are just as mean-spirited. It i
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Chrissie
Read the GR book description one more time:

"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 someday descend to a lower rung on the social l
...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What is primary: poverty or depravity? Actually, it is a vicious circle – poverty aggravates depravity and depravity exacerbates poverty until a human being has been reduced practically to the animal state. And then a man continues to live ruled by primitive instincts and physiological needs.
“When his father died, what was left of the Lester lands and debts was willed to Jeeter. The first thing that happened was the foreclosure of the mortgage. In order to satisfy the creditors, all the timber w
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Connie
"Tobacco Road", written in 1932 in the tough years of the Great Depression, portrays a dirt poor white sharecropper and his family in Georgia. The Lesters have lived on the land for many generations, first growing tobacco and later cotton, until the land was depleted of nutrients. They have no money for seed and fertilizer, and even worse, no money for food.

Their older children have left the family to work in the mills in the city. But Jeeter Lester feels tied to the land, and refuses to look fo
...more
Megan
Tobacco Road is the quintessential hillbilly book. First published in 1922, this book has no doubt shaped this country’s view of rednecks everywhere. Erm… really I want to write more about this but…

The thing is, author Erskine Caldwell apparently meant for this book to be a true portrayal of life amongst poverty stricken people in the rural South. But it is easy to see why so many people mistook Tobacco Road as a comedy. We are introduced to a few members of the Lester family; Jeter, Ada, Ellie
...more
Trudi
This was a tough one to get through. Almost too raw for me, especially that end scene with the grandmother and the family's treatment of her. I was extremely disturbed by some scenes and almost hoped Caldwell meant this to be a parody of harsh, destitute country life. But no. Whereas Steinbeck illuminates our humanity, painting portraits of human dignity and courage in the face of unspeakable tragedy, Caldwell zeros in on our baser natures. The characters of Tobacco Road are cruel, vicious being ...more
Travelin
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Erskine Caldwell was the son of a Presbyterian minister. It seems his Caldwell ancestors hailed from an area where one of my Caldwell ancestors came from, although the two families appear to have been unrelated. As a good Presyberian, Erskine Caldwell couldn't help moralizing about personal responsibility, waste and lasciviousness, even if it was 3 years into the Great Depression. But as a rain-hardened Celt, a certain part of him seemed to be enjoying the craic. It struck me quite forcefully in ...more
Camie
May 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of the Lester's a 'white trash' family who lived on Tobacco Road in Augusta, Georgia during the Great Depression . It focuses around Jeeter the father, who appears amazingly indifferent towards his family ( including the 15 of 17 children who have already fled the poverty and devastation of the place ) Was he always like this or has the need to survive made him this way ? At times Jeeter is forced to stoop pretty low to try and sustain what's left of the family ( marrying off his 12 ye ...more
Laura
Just not feeling this book. At times I thought this book was a comedy act. Is it possible that these people would continue to starve instead of actually doing something about it....like working?! I don't blame the children for leaving that life behind. Nothing was changing and it wasn't "life's greatest mystery" as to why they never had anything. Poverty and starvation are no laughing matters but when you do nothing to make a go of it, that's wrong. Also, two lives were lost due to car accidents ...more
Jim
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I get a bit on the uncomfortable side when I read a book like this. I get the same feeling I used to get when I used to watch one of the Ma and Pa Kettle movies or the Beverly Hillbillies ...I get a squirming sense of embarrassment on behalf of the characters who know very well the stigma associated with poverty. It's as if you must be defective in some way because you have not thrived as others have; you have not kept up with the times.

Some people have claimed that this book portrays the Ameri
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Stela
Dec 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stela by: Fewlas

Beyond Humanity…

Some considered Tobacco Road a pulp novel. Others said it is a failure either as a comedy or a tragedy. And of course, the entire South rejected it indignantly (but didn’t they do the same with Faulkner?) on the grounds of image denigration.

With all these more or less accurate descriptions, what made writers like Faulkner or Saul Bellow prize the book, moreover, why is it included in Modern Library's list of the Best 100 Novels in the English Language and, finally, how come is i
...more
Shaun
Wow, this is a strange one, and oddly thought provoking.

It seems to me this was meant to be a statement about social injustice, namely the mistreatment/dismissal of the poor. Often hard to stomach, Caldwell's cast are more caricatures than characters.

Yet while the main character Jeeter Lester is perpetually lazy, immoral, and simple, I couldn't help but feel for the tragedy of his circumstances. For despite his faults, and there are many, the man has noble intentions...at the end of the day, he
...more
Mike (the Paladin)
May I be honest? I'd forgotten this piece of......waste material, until I ran across it here. I had it on my shelf in paperback form back in the flaming days of my youth when anything supposedly "racy" will catch a young man's attention. Here's a secret. It's not racy, it's not daring and if it's accurate about some of the poverty in the south in it's era, it's purely by accident. I didn't bother to slog all the way through this book and I have no idea what happened to the copy from my shelves.

M
...more
Lu
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Caldwell ha una capacità di scrittura così vivida e intensa che leggendo della miseria della famiglia Lester pare, al lettore, di odorare l'olezzo polveroso nel quale si ritrova a vivere. Leggendo pagina dopo pagina, viene quasi istintivo passare le mani sugli abiti per scrollare via di dosso la sabbia e lo sporco che infestano la lurida catapecchia dove Jeeter, Ada, Ellie May, Dude e la nonna dormono e cercano di non morir di fame. Il breve romanzo realista pubblicato nel 1932 vuole dipingere l ...more
Frederick
May 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: caldwell-erskine
This shocking book was published almost eighty years ago. I have deliberately not read any introductory material on it. Erskine Caldwell wrote a preface about twelve years after it came out and again in 1978. I'll read those introductions tomorrow, but I want to post some of my views. In the Goodreads group "The Rough South," I've posted my idea that this novel is about patriarchy denied. While I won't elaborate much, it being about 5:00 a.m. right now, I'll say that what strikes me as unusual i ...more
Tom Mathews
I'm coming into this story with nothing more than the title and Caldwell's introduction to guide me as to what the story is about. I was immediately perplexed as to what Caldwell was trying to do. Was he trying to publicize the plight of the poor as Steinbeck did in The Grapes of Wrath or was he doing something else?

Don't get me wrong. The book is very well written but I'm not sure of the author's intentions. Early on it became apparent that his portrayal of the Lester family is exaggerated to t
...more
tai
Jul 04, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i know this is on the modern library's best 100 list, but i found it simply disturbing. it seems like we were meant to laugh at the horrible people doing stupid things and making disastrous decisions, but what's the fun in that? why write a book of it?
on a good note, the character of ellie mae had captivating imagery. her blazing red split lip, pouring from her nostril; her always peering out from behind one or another chinaberry tree like some wild creature. the book isn't worth reading for th
...more
Seham Al-Mutairi .
حاصد القطن كالدويل كان قد كتب:
كان رجلاً يحب أن يُنبت بعض الأشياء في الأرض. والمصانع لا تصلح محلاً لرجل تجري تلك الرغبة القوية في دمائه. فالمصانع تشبه السيارات بعض الشبه، إنها صالحة لقضاء فترة من الوقت يلهو فيها الإنسان، لكنها لا تزوّده بالحُب الذي تغدقه الأرض عليه. فالأرض تسهر بشكل من الأشكال على مصلحة الناس الذين يُبقون أقدامهم فوقها. وحين يقف الناس طول الوقت على الألواح الخشبية المنصوبة في الابنية ويمشون في الشوارع المفروشة بالاسمنت فعندئذ تفقد الأرض اهتمامها بالإنسان.
Kirk Smith
More than a little humorous in a depraved sort of way. Like the story, like the characters, but damn it was repetitive. Caldwell must have been paid by the word as he repeated "cotton seed for planting and bat guano" at least a hundred times. More important to me as a precursor to the grit-lit we read today. An enjoyable book.
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Erskine Preston Caldwell was an American author. His writings about poverty, racism and social problems in his native South won him critical acclaim, but they also made him controversial among fellow Southerners of the time who felt he was holding the region up to ridicule.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erskine_...
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“There were always well-developed plans in Jeeter’s mind for the things he intended doing; but somehow he never got around to doing them. One day led to the next, and it was much more easy to say he would wait until tomorrow. When that day arrived, he invariably postponed action until a more convenient time. Things had been going along in that easy way for almost a lifetime now; nevertheless,” 3 likes
“Preachers has got to preach against something. It wouldn’t do them no good to preach for everything. They got to be against something every time.” 3 likes
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