• Benjamin Fife

What Are Your Assumptions About Yourself & Others - My Review of Sinclair Lewis' Main Street


In the last week, I’ve listened to Kitty Hendrix narration of the 100 year old novel Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. The writing is certainly personal & engaging & Ms. Hendrix narration matches it perfectly. Ostensibly, Main Street is in a way about every Main Street in America, viewed through the lens of one character, Carol Kendicott, on one fictional town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. As the story begins, Carol is a college graduate, soon to be librarian. She has grand plans to make some small town a place worth living, in her own meaning of the term. She, in due course of time meets Dr. Will Kendicott & moves to the town of 3000 in high hopes of accomplishing her dreams.

Main Street of Gopher Prairie unfortunately isn’t ready to be molded by the young idealist. The main body of the story is Carol gradually coming to terms with who she is, who she wants to be, and where exactly that fits in a very slowly evolving society.

Whenever I read or listen to a book, I make comparisons in my mind and question what the author’s purpose was. In a sense, Sinclair Lewis in this book is an American Charles Dickens. Statements are made, sometimes overtly and sometimes less so about some of the injustices of our society (or in this case, the American small town society of the 1910’s). But unlike Dickens, there is no deep plot as it were. Ultimately, this story is a snapshot of one woman's life, becoming a wife, mother, community member, rebel, nursemaid and so forth. Though Lewis extensively paints the picture of Gopher Prairie and the sometimes caricaturized inhabitants, ultimately, I felt like this story is about 1 person – Carol, who is a stand in for Sinclair Lewis himself. Main Street is inevitable (kind of like Thanos???) It will be what it will be. Society will go on much as it has.

But where does Carol fit? Where do I fit & where do you fit? Again and again I was struck with the conflict that was Carol. My biggest takeaways are to 1- to know yourself, TRULY know yourself, 2 – Be TRUE to yourself. Figure out what that means and be authentic to yourself & those around you, and 3- Accept others as they are. They have ambitions, doubts, things they’re passionate about & things that will never interest them. But in this book, Carols assumptions about others & her assumption that she can change others creates unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

There were several times when listening to Main Street that I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. It’s a book that makes you think. And it makes you think about how you might think you are better than others & where you’re wrong. And even a century later, it's incredibly relevant. Technology may have made it much easier to connect with anyone, anywhere, but ultimately, Main Street is still seen in every small town to whatever small community you are a part of. I especially liked Carol's realization that in the big city, she would be interacting with a similarly small community of people ultimately. We are who we are, and it has less to do with the setting we are in and more to do with how comfortable we are in the shoes we've chosen to inhabit.

So – Rating the book – Writing – 5 stars. Plot – 3 stars. If you’re looking for an,engaging page turner, mystery, or action, the plot is not what drives this book. It just follows Carol and Main Street through several years. If you want a book to make you think, check out Main Street. Narration – 5 Stars – This is the first book I’ve listened to by Kitty Hendrix & she did fabulous on it. Sometimes I found her male characters a little caricatured, but that was as much the writing as her narration.

Overall – 4.5 stars.

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