I just finished East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Ladies and gentleman, I think that I've found a book that has broken into my top ten books of all time, maybe even within my top five. But before I start gushing about East of Eden, let me tell you briefly (if I can) about it...
It was originally published in 1952, thirteen years after the publication of his masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, which was published in 1939.
The book introduces two families: the Trasks (from New England) and the Hamiltons (from California). They are initially independent of each other but as the stories progress, their lives get intertwined.
East of Eden is epic in scope; it describes three generations of the Trask family in detail as well as three generations of the Hamilton family. The movie East of Eden, staring James Dean, only describes the events in the last 150 pages of this 600 page novel.
So what is this book about?
Simply put, I think that it is about redemption. As a christian man, I personally love this topic; I never tire of reading about redemption (for example, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, Les Miserables The Musical [I guess the novel is about redemption also], A Christmas Carol, The Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance Legends and Star Wars, to name a few).
The execution of the storytelling is outstanding. I was in awe of Steinbeck's writing. I felt like the writing was very tight and not a word was wasted. Also, the book felt so organic to me; it felt like it was a real story because of how beautifully everything fit together.
This is writing at it's best by an author at the height of his powers.
I would encourage people to read this with a friend (or a group of friends) and discuss the book: Who did Cyrus love more? Why? Who did Adam love more? Why? What does Lee represent? What function does Lee have in the book? How are the husbands and wives different from each other? How are they the same? etc.
The characters in the book are so complex (almost as if they were real people). You can almost guess what a character is thinking without actually reading their thoughts.
I could go on and on about how good this book is but I think this is a good place to stop and let you pick up the book yourself if you have an interest.
Overall, I give East of Eden my highest recommendation. It is brilliantly written. The story is amazingly executed. The characters are extremely complex. And finally, it's about my favorite topic in the world, redemption. Outstanding, outstanding. Good times.