Steinbeck is one of those author's who have the label "great" or "classic" surrounding him. Sometimes, more than not actually, I find that to be unear...moreSteinbeck is one of those author's who have the label "great" or "classic" surrounding him. Sometimes, more than not actually, I find that to be unearned. East of Eden deserves the classic label, known as one of America's best, and the important Oprah BookClub stamp of approval. It deserves all the praise. I finished a few hours again and still my thoughts are dissecting the book and its many intricacies.
The premise surrounds the Trask family and also examines the Hamilton's. The Hamilton's are dreamers. They laugh and love hard. Sometimes they fail hard but always with a smile. Then there is the Trask family. We start with Adam Trask, whose mother committed suicide, and his half-brother Charlie. They love each other but is tempered with hatred and jealousy. Adam is clearly his father's favorite and Charles has a mean streak that allows him to attempt to murder his brother while loving him so fiercely.
A generation goes by and Adam marries the sociopath Cathy, incapable of feeling remorse, love, or empathy. She gives Adam twin boys, Aron and Caleb, before running of to run a whore house and wreak some more havoc. The boys names come about after a conversation about Cain and Able. That and the fact that their names are so similar to their father and uncle makes you wonder if they are headed for the same awful fate. They are so different and have the same love/hate relationship. What happens is a fight between the idea of choice versus inherent good/evil and whether after making a bad choice can forgiveness and redemption be had.
I loved this novel. It is one of the most complex and intricate and simultaneously delicate novels I have read. In between these huge story lines there is also so many side characters who are so different from the Trasks. The Hamiltons are just inherently happy and the Trask family seems to be fighting off this family curse to join the Hamiltons as a normal and happy family. They are built around lies and deceit and mystery and they have to overcome that to achieve sometimes brutal open honesty.