I had a notoriously bad public education -- at least in my opinion. Ever since I watched the film Of Mice and Men in sophomore English and read the final chapter of The Grapes of Wrath in that same class, I was convinced that I hated Steinbeck. I never attempted to read any Steinbeck since... until now. Inspired by my neighborhood book club, I delved into East of Eden, expecting to hate it. Here is what I really thought:
This novel follows the character of Adam Trask through his childhood and beyond, beginning in his childhood home in Connecticut, his time as a young man in the army, then his marriage and move to the Salinas Valley in California. The story also follows the Hamilton family, which is said to be based some of Steinbeck's relatives. Each character is artfully introduced and woven into the story.
At its root, this is an adaptation of the story of Adam and Eve -- two people, seemingly in their own Garden of Eden, until Eve makes a choice that changes everything. Adam and Cathy's twin sons, Aron and Caleb, even seem to embody the biblical Cain and Abel.
Beyond that, this story is about love and loss, good and evil, virtue and vice, and the redemption that can come through forgiveness. And I loved it.
That said, this novel has a lot of adult content, including sex and violence. So if you're squeamish about those things, this may not be for you. Otherwise, read it and enjoy it!