Casual workers, scallywags, whores and oddballs populate the Cannery Row in California's fishing town of Monterey. They live in old warehouses like Mack and his four buddies, who hate all regular work; they live in discarded boilers and rusty pipes in the "empty space", which is anything but empty, or like Henri, the painter, in a self-made boat he's been tinkering with for twenty years and in which none of his wives and girlfriends endures for a long time. They meet in the inexhaustible general store of the Chinese Lee Chong to shop on the nod, in the pubs around the fish canning factories, in Dora's establishment and in the laboratory of the reclusive marine biologist "Doc", whom they surprise one day with a terrific party.
Cannery Row focuses on the acceptance of life as it is: both the exuberance of community and the loneliness of the individual. Drawing on his memories of the real inhabitants of Monterey, California, Steinbeck interweaves the stories of Doc, Henri, Mack and his boys, and the other characters in this world, where only the fittest survive, to create a novel that is at once one of his most humorous and most poignant works.
Fun fact: The main street of Monterey, then lined by fish factories, was called Ocean View Avenue, Baptised "Cannery Row" by John Steinbeck's novel of the same name, the street officially was renamed when the book became a bestseller.