East of Eden

East of Eden (Steinbeck Centennial Edition) - John Steinbeck I have such strong feelings about this novel that I have to divide it into sections to show all of its greatness. The only thing I knew about this book was that it was a Biblical tale involving the Hamilton family and the Trask family. Since I knew neither family going in, I had the freedom to be surprised by what happened. Respecting that, I will make this review as spoiler-free as possible. First of all, if anyone feels irked by the religious undertones of the story, I assure you that the story unfolds like any other and there is no ulterior weight to the story; I never felt, while reading, that I was being beaten over the head with Scripture. I became so invested in the characters that I never recognized any religious themes until after I had finished the novel, and even then they only resonated with me because I was told they were there. On its own, I might not have noticed. As far as plot goes, this story spans quite a few generations, all of which share the inexplicable, messed-up nature of family life. Steinbeck manages to articulate the difficult nature of blood ties, and digs into how each character's background affects their perspective. Okay, now for the gushing... I fell completely in love with the Hamilton family, and their patriarch Samuel. I felt that Samuel was the heart of the novel, and while there were plenty of pages featuring him, there were never enough for me. In the same way, Lee became the soul of the book. His ruminations and his way of seeing through other people, even if it was not to their detriment, provided so much emotional leeway that I cannot imagine the story without him. There is one passage at the end involving him that reduced me to almost-tears. (I don't cry when I read books, generally.) And the Trask clan, with their almighty baggage, gave the story most of its friction and left me feeling tense all the way up to the end. While this story is long, I never got irritated with the pacing. I also felt that the local color was beautifully rendered and believable. While I have never seen Salinas myself, I feel like I've been painted a perfect image of how life back then must have been. And as my gushing insinuates, I haven't come this close to crying while reading a book in a very long time. This goes without saying but, yes, I recommend it!