The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck – Reviewed by Guy Portman
An unlikely group of characters are travelling through rural South California by bus. In his unique style Steinbeck proceeds to explore each personality in intricate detail; their inhibitions, motivations, intimate thoughts and hopes for the future.
There’s the emotional and uninhibited bus driver Juan Chicoy and his adolescent assistant, Kit, aptly nicknamed Pimples. Ernest Horton, the itinerant and sociable salesman and the conservative Mr and Mrs Pritchard and their twenty one year old daughter Mildred, who yearns for independence and is seething with rebellious inclinations.
The object of the male passengers’ desires is Camille, a stripper by profession, masquerading as a dental nurse. Weary from days of travel and eager to avoid the unwelcome attentions of her male admirers she seeks out the solitary Norma as her companion. The naive and wildly optimistic Norma is immediately star struck by the glamorous and worldly Camille and within no time is making plans for a future with her, doused with doses of reality from her new companion.
Though The Wayward Bus is not one of Steinbeck’s best known novels, I would argue that it is one of his best; a thoroughly compelling and enjoyable read, in which the author vividly creates each character in the minds of his readers’ and successfully displays his deep understanding of human nature at every turn.