Monday, November 4, 2013

G200 Book Review of The House of Earth by Woody Guthrie

Name of Book: House of Earth

Author: Woody Guthrie

ISBN: 978-0-06-2244839-8

Publisher: Harper

Type of book: Dust Bowl, 1930s, marriage, relationship, government vs small folk, adobe house, farming

Year it was published: Finished in 1947, 2013


Finished in 1947 and lost to readers until now, House of Earth is Woody Guthrie's only fully realized novel—a powerful portrait of Dust Bowl America, filled with the homespun lyricism and authenticity that have made his songs a part of our national consciousness. It is the story of an ordinary couple's dreams of a better life and their search for love and meaning in a corrupt world.

Tike and Ella May Hamlin struggle to plant roots in the arid land of the Texas Panhandle. The husband and wife live in a precarious wooden farm shack, but Tike yearns for a sturdy house that will protect them from the treacherous elements. Thanks to a five-cent government pamphlet, Tike has the know-how to build a simple adobe dwelling, a structure made from the land itself—fireproof, windproof, Dust Bowl–proof. A house of earth.

Though they are one with the farm and with each other, the land on which Tike and Ella May live and work is not theirs. Due to larger forces beyond their control—including ranching conglomerates and banks—their adobe house remains painfully out of reach.

A story of rural realism and progressive activism, and in many ways a companion piece to Guthrie's folk anthem "This Land Is Your Land," House of Earth is a searing portrait of hardship and hope set against a ravaged landscape. Combining the moral urgency and narrative drive of John Steinbeck with the erotic frankness of D. H. Lawrence, here is a powerful tale of America from one of our greatest artists.


There are two characters in the book; that of Tike and Ella May. Ella May comes from a wealthy family and she married Tike for love. Tike strikes me as being in awe with her as well as loving her a great deal. Beyond that I don't know anything about them. There is of course the midwife who rebuffs Tike's attentions (a bit odd, but he's doing it with Ella May's permission) and I would guess all are searching for a better life in one way or the other.


I have no idea what the lesson of the story should be, that its hard to be a farmer?


Its written in third person narrative from Tike's and Ella May's points of views, and in fact besides these two characters there aren't any other characters, which means that 90 percent of the story is only about Tike and Ella May. Due to sexual nature of the book, I also wouldn't advise for small children to read, although it does take place between married couple. I think I was a bit frustrated with endless synonyms for a single word, and the story did have potential, but I feel its not fully developed.

Author Information:

born in Okemah, Oklahoma, The United States July 14, 1912
died October 03, 1967
genre Poetry, Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs

Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie was an American songwriter and folk musician. Guthrie's musical legacy consists of hundreds of songs, ballads and improvised works covering topics from political themes to traditional songs to children's songs. Guthrie performed continually throughout his life with his guitar frequently displaying the slogan "This Machine Kills Fascists". Guthrie is perhaps best known for his song "This Land Is Your Land" which is regularly sung in American schools. Many of his recorded songs are archived in the Library of Congress.

Guthrie traveled with migrant workers from Oklahoma to California and learned traditional folk and blues songs. His songs are about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression and are known as the "Dust Bowl Troubadour." Guthrie was associated with, but never a member of, Communist groups in the United States throughout his life.

Guthrie was married three times and fathered eight children, including American folk musician Arlo Guthrie. He is the grandfather of musician Sarah Lee Guthrie. Guthrie died from complications of the degenerative neurologic affliction known as Huntington's Disease. In spite of his illness, during his later years Guthrie served as a figurehead in the folk movement providing inspiration to a generation of new folk musicians, including mentor relationships with Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan.


I have never heard of Woody Guthrie, nor am I familiar with his music. What did draw me to this book is the title, which was reminiscent of Pearl Buck's trilogy that includes The Good Earth, Sons and A House Divided. I did find some similarities between House of Earth Woody Guthrie and House of Earth trilogy by Pearl Buck; one of which seem to be similar timelines they were written in, and there's focus on people who farmed for multiple generations. There are also things I liked about this book, one is that I found the descriptions and dialogue as well as the relationship between Ella May and Tike to be captivating and page turning; there's an addictive quality, at least for me, when it comes to the dialogue. I also liked the relationship between the two of them. What I didn't like about the book are the endless synonyms for one single word that followed, as well as a confusing fourth chapter titled Hammer Ring and the fact that the story didn't really tie up loose ends, and I also had a difficult time understanding the obstacles that Tike and Ella May faced in their lives.

This is for TLC Book Tour

Woody’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 22nd: Lavish Bookshelf
Wednesday, October 23rd: The Blog of Lit Wits
Thursday, October 24th: Lit and Life
Monday, October 28th: Mom in Love With Fiction
Tuesday, October 29th: M. Denise C.
Wednesday, October 30th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Thursday, October 31st: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Monday, November 4th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, November 5th: A Book Geek
Wednesday, November 6th: Man of La Book
Thursday, November 7th: Broken Teepee
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.


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