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EAST OF EDEN By John Steinbeck
OK – I’m a member of the Oprah Book Club. I admit it. So when Oprah recommended the John Steinbeck classic, East of Eden, as the book that inspired her to bring back the book club, I had to read it. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I had not read East of Eden before, especially since I was an English major in college, but somehow I missed it.
Oprah called East of Eden possibly the best novel ever written. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but close. East of Eden is the mythic story of two sets of brothers, set largely in the expansive Salinas Valley in California between the end of the Civil War and World War I. Both sets of brothers struggle with Cain and Abel jealousies, betrayals and loves. The evil characters in East of Eden will make you feel a chill in the room and are not one-dimensional. In fact the one character, Cathy who changes her name to Kate, is an unforgettably cold black widow character who sucks all the oxygen out of any room she’s in.
The characters and plot of East of Eden are so rich, but the experience of reading East of Eden is fulfilling largely because of Steinbeck’s language. Did authors of 50 years ago philosophize more than they do now? I’m not sure, but listen to this example of Steinbeck’s description: “In all such local tragedies time works like a damp brush on water color. The sharp edges blur, the ache goes out of it, the colors melt together, and from the many separated lines a solid gray emerges.” Or Steinbeck’s description of a young teacher as “a quiet young man who warmed his sense of failure to his bosom. Deep in himself he felt that he had been rejected by God, and for cause.”
Originally published in 1952 and now number one on the New York Times paperback bestseller list for the third week in a row, John Steinbeck’s classic East of Eden is a meaty, meaningful, must read. On the Book Beat for KSL Newsradio 1160, I’m Amanda Dickson.