To a God Unknown is a powerful novel by John Steinbeck. The story centers on Joseph, a man who tries to build his life in Nuestra Señora, California. He is convinced that his father’s spirit has inhabited a tree and that he must protect the land from nature itself. The story raises an interesting theme of God vs. Nature. It is usually taught that god is present in all living things, but where is the tipping point between one’s spiritual connection to the earth and land worship? It is a beautiful portrayal of archaic spirituality spontaneously resurfacing in a person’s mind and his need to follow it.
Steinbeck’s description of the countryside is masterful. He has the ability to transform nature in all its extremes with a literary force that is almost biblical. The tone starts off bright like a clear morning and progressively become darker until it is submerged in a mysterious night. Nature takes on a primal quality in this book. It is something to be feared, respected, and will forever remain a mystery. With Global Warming and the environment being such major issue, this book gains extra relevance.
I was hesitant about reviewing this book because it is a classic. What hasn’t already been said about Nobel Prize winner, John Steinbeck? The reason I decided to do so is because films and books in the style of No Country for Old Men and Dejango Unchained are enjoying such major success. People are craving that dark brand of western entertainment. If To a God Unknown was written now, it would be a box office smash, but since it’s a classic most people dismiss it as old fashioned. For being written in the 1930’s, it’s still a savage read that will make even Quentin Tarantino fans shiver. To a God Unknown is a psychedelic western loaded with primal energy and biblical wrath. It’s a title that truly deserves to be called a classic.