East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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

“No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that it is true and true of us.” – John Steinbeck

My Take, Why its worth a read:
I’ll be upfront, this book isn’t for everyone.  But I found it incredible and enlightening.  But it’s not an easy read.  It’s challenging and can be slow at times, but will make you think and change how you see humanity.

I first found out about East of Eden when I kept coming across the word “Timshel” on a different website.  I wrote about it here. After reading a few quotes from the book it shot to the top of my “must read” list.  I frequently recommend it to friends and have yet to have a complaint.

In short, this book examines our human nature and what we’re truly capable of. This is the the age-old story of the struggle between good and evil, but with an interesting twist. Steinbeck sees the coexistence of good and evil as necessary for the emergence of character or greatness. He lays the responsibility for that emergence squarely on the shoulders of the individual and shows that the exercise of free will (timshel) is the key to that emergence.  Some people possess within themselves only good or only evil. Achieving true character or greatness is an impossibility for them, because choice is not possible and is, in fact, meaningless. Rather than character or greatness, their lives lead inevitably to self-destruction. For others good and evil constantly struggle for domination. Even when the good naturally dominates, one must exercise free will to exhibit character or achieve greatness.

Favorite Quote:

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

About the Author:
John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.
In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley region of California, a culturally diverse place of rich migratory and immigrant history. This upbringing imparted a regionalistic flavor to his writing, giving many of his works a distinct sense of place.

Seventeen of his works, including The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Cannery Row (1945), The Pearl (1947), and East of Eden (1952), went on to become Hollywood films, and Steinbeck also achieved success as a Hollywood writer, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Story in 1944 for Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.

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