Extremely clunky prose, melodramatic event on top of melodramatic event, extremely cliche and expected ending, annoying characters, and a plot that went absolutely nowhere. I really don't know what I was supposed to like in this novel.
My thought is that the reason this book is on the list is a cultural one. According to the introduction, the book held a large amount of controversy with authorities from Georgia claiming that the acts in the book were very far from the reality of the situation. My guess is that the book shone a light on the incredible poverty in the region described, and the inhumane actions that were placed on it. A large number of works of art have gotten credit for political actions like these, and they should, but dear god, can't we at least get something close to literary merit with our political actions? If not, then just write a damn essay. It's a lot easier to interpret. If you look at someone like Lewis Hine, who took incredibly gorgeous pictures of child labor around the 1920's, you can see that it is possible to shed light on events in the world that need to be addressed while still making good art. Caldwell missed the second part.
Another disturbing part of this book- The version I picked up was a picture book, filled with photographs of people from the area around the time the book took place. Every so often, I flipped a page and was face to face with an old, dirty, toothless man staring back at me. Caught me off guard every time.