The Stricklands

Written by Edwin Lanham
Review by Cindy Vallar

Life during the Great Depression is hard, particularly for those living in Oklahoma. The Stricklands are one such family. Facing imminent loss of their land because of a WPA Works project, Jay and Pat take different paths to survive. One brother turns to crime. The other becomes a union organizer intent on uniting the white, black, and Indian tenant farmers against those who exploit them.

Originally published in 1939 shortly before Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, reviewers expected The Stricklands to win the Pulitzer. Fate decreed otherwise, and this heart-wrenching story soon disappeared from bookshelves. Lawrence R. Rodgers, an Associate Professor of English at Kansas State University, pens an introduction outlining the historical, regional, and literary context for this compelling novel.

Lanham, himself an Oklahoma native, realistically portrays the people, place, and time affected by economic depression. His story transports the reader back in time and captures poor folks’ struggle to survive in a world that garners them little in spite of their hard work. Love, greed, power, betrayal, and prejudice collide within these pages without any sugarcoating. Yet in spite of adversity and tragedy, hope for a better life and world remains.