Sep 05, 2016cknightkc rated this title 4.5 out of 5 stars
Having never seen the film adaptations, I was totally unfamiliar with this novel when I began reading it for my book group, but having finished it, I can well understand why EAST OF EDEN is called a masterwork of American literature. It is a sweeping multi-generational saga set in the beautiful Salinas valley of northern California. Author John Steinbeck weaves his own family history into a plot based on the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, and creates memorable, complex characters including one of the most callous, despicable villains ever written. It’s a story of the struggle between good and evil, but ultimately it’s about choice. This novel incorporates many elements: family relationships, humor, jealousy, greed, suspense, murder, sex, love, conflict, tragedy, and redemption, among others. While a long book, it’s not a difficult read, but one I would caution to take your time with in order to fully appreciate Steinbeck’s rich descriptions and writing, such as the following: “…Samuel rode lightly on top of a book and he balanced happily among ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.” This quote perfectly sums up my experience, like Tom, reading this remarkable book.