Author: John Steinbeck Series: Standalone Genre: Classic Release Date: September, 1952 Book Length: 601 pages Publisher: Penguin Books Review: 5/5
In his journal, Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck called East of Eden “the first book,” and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.
Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his family on the new rich land. But the birth of his twins, Cal and Aaron, brings his wife to the brink of madness, and Adam is left alone to raise his boys to manhood. One boy thrives nurtured by the love of all those around him; the other grows up in loneliness enveloped by a mysterious darkness.
First published in 1952, East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the enecplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis.
Before I read this, all I knew was that I owned it. Now that I’ve read it, all I know is that it owns me. For someone who doesn’t take the weight of words lightly, I have a hard time coming up with the right ones to accurately convey how this made me feel.
This story is mainly about multiple generations of two families, the Trask’s and the Hamilton’s. It was quite the overwhelming sensation to see, if but a very small part of, myself in each and every one of them. As much as I don’t like to admit this, yes, even Cathy, who embodied pure and total evil on the extreme scale. When you read a book, you silently hope that you will be able to relate to one, and although I did see myself mostly in one person, to take a small something away from them all is a whole other experience that I did not anticipate.
There are so many beautiful things said in this book that if I tried to display them all, I would be regurgitating the entire 601 pages over again. No joke, someone sitting beside me on the subway actually turned their head and ducked down to see what I was reading, presumably because I kept reaching for sticky notes to mark the pages every 2 minutes. These are my favourite types of books to read—ones that awaken a part of me that I either didn’t know existed or that I have stored hidden away somewhere to the point where I want to remember every single word.
A huge takeaway from this was that everyone wants to be loved, appreciated, and accepted and that no matter how deep rooted our sins are we always have a chance, or choice, to redeem ourselves. Humans are flawed. We all want to think the best of ourselves, but the truth is that we all have a little bit of the evil of Cathy inside of us. More importantly though, we all have the ability to improve and stray away from the temptations of evil that arise from negative emotions like anger, jealousy, and greed. The choice between good and evil is ours, and I honestly don’t think there is a greater power to possess as a human being than that.