The Wayward Bus, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


The Wayward Bus travels through the backroads of the lush California countryside, transporting the lost and the lonely to new destinations.

Juan Chicoy is at the wheel, a man of the land, hot-blooded and uninhibited.

His passengers include Ernest, a travelling salesman out for fun, seventeen-year-old Kit, also known as Pimples, and Camille the stripper who dances at stag nights and takes the star-struck young Norma under her wing.

This powerful and unsentimental novel becomes a story of crisis and passion, love and longing, as the travellers reveal their secrets and journey away from their pasts and towards, possibly, the promise of the future.

The Wayward Bus, with its profound insight into human desires and failings, remains one of Steinbeck's most powerful novels.


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Review by

In The wayward bus Steinbeck describes how a group of people, a seemingly random sample from society, get along for a day while they are stuck in the middle of nowhere. Through the fabric of their palaver emerges the sense of deep loneliness, sexual repression and a craving for belonging. There are hidden dreams and façades suggesting success, which is longed for but not (yet) attained.The setting, the so-called middle of nowhere, is quite clearly described, and even to modern readers recognizable as a place quite out of the way, a place one would have little hope for betterment. While some live there, others get stuck temporarily, as their bus makes an unscheduled stop. Causes for the bus to stop may be fate, as with the torrential rain that threatens to wash away the bridge, accident, as with the mechanical failure of the bus, or purposeful mishap, as the driver intentionally steers the bus into the mud, where it gets stuck in a rut.However, in all cases, the state of being sidetracked seems temporal. The title The wayward bus suggests that the bus is turned away from the main road, or its destination; wayward being the short form for awayward meaning "turned aside" or "turned away," a word Steinbeck may have encountered in his reading of Malory's Le morte d'Arthur, which reads:And therewithal she turned her from the window, and Sir Beaumains rode awayward from the castle, making great dole, and so he rode here and there and wist not where he rode, till it was dark night.Likewise, their location, incidentally the starting point of the bus, is named Rebel Corners, a place historically associated with self-imposed laziness and ignorance.The wayward bus is in its core an optimistic, hopeful story. As the characters are essentially stuck in the rut temporarily, the novel clearly shows the way out. Nicknamed sweetheart, the bus will eventually go on, and find its way back, away from Rebel Corners and on to its destination, and from there to any other place. Everyone may at some stage find themselves stuck at crossroads, and Steinbeck's message is that love and belonging are the path out of the mire.

Review by

Another Steinbeck as an adult, and this was every bit as good as the first. In one sense not a lot happens. Told over the course of one day, this is more about the people, their motivations and interactions than it has anything to do what they actually do. He explores a whole raft of people, and does so convincingly. The bus forms the core of the story, as that's the mechanism that brings the varied cast together. She is almost a character in her own right, having a name. Another great book that I'm glad I've read.

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