Saturday, March 13, 2010

East of Eden

"I'll want to hear," Samuel said. "I eat stories like grapes."

It has been decades since I read a book by John Steinbeck, although I remember being very touched and transported by them all these years later. It's a good thing I waited so long to read East of Eden, because I would not have been capable of appreciating all the subleties and layers hidden among the pages. I would have devoured it for the story alone, which is a masterpiece in itself, but I might have missed the point and the beauty in the meaning behind the words.

I've recently read some excellent multigenerational sagas by exceptional authors - John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River and Jeffery Lent's In the Fall - steeped in story, place and complex, unforgettable characters. Now I know that John Steinbeck did it first, and did it best, telling us "the story of my country and the story of me."

I was working at a school book sale, talking books, when an English teacher recommended East of Eden. She told us her son, and English major, recently read it as well, and they both felt it was the best book they had ever read. I agree.


  1. I need to read it. I remember being blown away by JS when I first read him. Just really wowed.

  2. I missed this! And it is timely for me.
    Just finished rereading this. Had first read it at age 12-13, and had, like you said, read it as straight up story and didn't really "get" it. This time it was an incredible experience. "One of the best books I have ever read." Truly. I just finished saying this over in the ning book thread. It knocked my socks off. The handling of such a giant and unwieldy theme as good and evil in this masterful, tender, illuminating way. What a beautiful book, and what an integral read.