I re-read East of Eden by John Steinbeck for my book club. I almost wish that I hadn’t re-read it, because it had an aura of amazingness about it that it lost the second time around. Don’t get me wrong; this is in my top 3 favorite books of all time…it’s just that there was a little sumthin’ sumthin’ that was lost this time.
East of Eden is an epic novel that follows the Trask family and the Hamilton family. There are parallels to Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. I’ll try to summarize the book in one long, run-on sentence: This book is about Adam, who doesn’t love his dad like his brother Charles does, but gets the attention Charles wants, and Charles has a bad temper and almost kills Adam but doesn’t and eventually Cathy comes to their house and she’s evil but Adam loves her and doesn’t see her true nature and marries her but she eventually leaves him and takes over a brothel but not before she’s birthed twins, Aron and Cal, and Aron is the ‘angel’ and Cal has a bad side and Adam loves Aron more even though Cal’s the one who really yearns for and loves his father. That’s my best attempt at summarizing the book. It takes place in California’s Salinas Valley between the beginning of the 20th century and the end of World War I, the characters are AWESOME (even the bad guys), and Steinbeck’s writing is unparalleled.
Everyone loved this book; those who re-read it were enthralled once again, and for those who read it for the first time, they couldn’t say enough good things about it.
For an extensive plot summary, check out what Wikipedia says here.
An interesting conversation arose when one of my book club members read this passage:
And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.
The member who read this passage said she didn’t think she could say about herself, “This is what I am and what I am about.” All the other members nodded their head in agreement. I spoke up, actually surprised that I would be the only one with a strong idea of what I am and what I am about. I explained that I am about making the world better for other people, whether it’s by paying the bridge toll for the person behind me, doing something nice and unexpected for a friend, taking interest in a young person…isn’t that what life is about? Living outside of yourself? When I have children then my life will be about them, and my children will be “what I am and what I am about,” not because I lose my identity, but because my focus in life will be to raise decent children. People involved in non-profits: that is what they are and what they are about. People involved in civil rights movements or other causes: that is what they are and what they are about. But what you are and what you are about doesn’t have to be as big and encompassing as freedom of the mind or women’s rights or ending poverty…it can be as simple as making the world a better place, one kind act at a time.
Right now, though, East of Eden is a kick ass book…East of Eden is what I am and what I am about. 😀
Rating: 98 out of 100 (when I first read it I would have given it 100 out of 100)