East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Goodreads blurb:  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. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

This book took me a little while to read, but I’m am glad that I took my time with it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m already thinking about the next time I read it!

Most of the novel is set in the Salinas Valley, which is a metaphor for the line between good and evil.  It’s described as having dark and brooding mountains on one side and light and happy clouds on the other.  It is essentially a retelling of the story of Cain and Abel from the Old Testament, and while the metaphors aren’t very subtle, the story is beautiful and I didn’t feel like I was being hit over the head with a bible.

I’m having a hard time figuring out how to explain how much I enjoyed Steinbeck’s writing.  The only other book I’ve read by Steinbeck was The Grapes of Wrath, which was assigned reading in high school and I HATED it.  That was a million years ago, so I don’t even remember if I hated it because I was “forced” to read it or if it was truly due to the story.  The writing in East of Eden was so incredible and the dialog was fantastic.  I’ve griped before how much it bugs me when an author repeatedly uses phrases like “she said excitedly” or my favorite “she breathed”.  Steinbeck uses other clues to convey the mood and it just feels really natural.

Anyhow, everyone should check out this book because it’s amazing.  Like, I could marry this book kind of amazing.

If anybody knows of a an upcoming group read for this book, please let me know!  I’m not a literary aficionado and I know there is probably so much more to this book than what I got out of it on my first solo read.


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