east of eden

title: East of Eden

author: John Steinbeck

genre: Fiction-ish, semi-autobiographical, growing up, jealousy, twins, revenge, hatred

dates read: August 13th – August 19th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Adam and Charles are step brothers and vastly different; Charles is more outgoing but has a cruel side to him, while Adam is timid and doesn’t stand up for himself.   Their father is a gruff man who sees Adam’s more tender side as weakness, telling him he will join the army.  As the brother’s grow up, they go between love and hatred for each other.  When Adam meets Cathy and falls in love, Charles sees a bit of his own personality in Cathy and tries to warn Adam against her (he’s totally right, btw).  Against Charles’ advice, Adam marries Cathy and they move across the country to California where Cathy gives birth to twins.  Distant and unfeeling, Cathy leaves Adam soon after she gives birth.  Deadened by the abandonment of his wife, Adam moves through life in a haze, not even naming his twin boys for a year.  Eventually named Caleb (“Cal”) and Aaron (“Aron”) just miss being named “Cain” and “Able.”  Are Adam’s sons destined to repeat the mistakes of their almost namesakes?

personal thoughts: Um, wow.  I absolutely loved this.  Steinbeck knows how to write about Life.  He doesn’t write glamorous characters with charmed lives, he writes about real people who are down on their luck, live in a broken world, and get their hands dirty.  He also writes about the beauty of the land, and is philosophical about life.  I love the grittiness of his stories and feel like his character are (for the most part) people I would like to know.  Beautiful, wonderful, Real.  You should read this (fyi, it is 600 pages, so prepare to spend a chunk of time on it, so worth it).

favorite quotes:
“the Gabilan mountains . . . were beckoning mountains with a brown grass love.” p. 3

“They called him a comical genius and carried his stories carefully home, and they wondered at how the stories spilled out on the way, for they never sounded the same repeated in their own kitchens.” p. 10

“‘A thing so triumphantly illogical, so beautifully senseless as an army can’t allow a question to weaken it.'” p. 25

“A roomer down the hall began a patient continuing cough against the quiet night.” p. 49

“Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on.  From nothing to nothing is no time at all.” p. 54

“No one who is young is ever going to be old.” p. 90

“He took no rest, no recreation, and he became rich without pleasure and respected without friends.” p. 132

“‘I don’t very much believe in blood,’ said Samuel.  ‘”I think when a man finds good or bad in his children he is seeing only what he planted in them after they cleared the womb.'” p. 260

“‘You’re too young a man to be panning memories, Adam.  You should be getting yourself some new ones, so that the mining will be richer when you come to age.'” p. 294

“‘It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying “I couldn’t help it; the way was set.”  But think of the glory of choice!  That makes a man a man.'” p. 302

“It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.” p. 412, 413

“‘There’s nothing sadder to me than associations held together by nothing but the glue of postage stamps.  If you can’t see or hear or touch a man, it’s best to let him go.'” p. 415

“He felt let down and helpless, packed like a bird’s egg in the cotton of his father’s ambition for him.” p. 532

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