This week is a classic! “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck is considered one of his best novels. In fact, Steinbeck himself considered it his magnum opus! So what makes this book, compared to his other well-known titles such as “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath”, so lasting and profound? Fact is people year after year, of all ages, when they discover this book, comment on how much of an impact it made on their life. Truly, it is for this very reason why Steinbeck’s works are considered “classics.”
The story takes place amidst the background of farmland America at the turn of the 20th century, spanning the Salinas Valley in California. Regardless of its Americana setting, the impact that this story makes is due to the characters, and some have stated that these are the most interesting characters ever written. The interweaving family dynamics that force the destinies of these two families to be bound together (the Trasks and the Hamiltons) is the heart and soul of this tale. The overarching theme stems (as one can tell by the title) from the Judeo-Christian story of the fall from Eden and the rivalries that occur between the family of Adam, but Steinbeck in his unmatched ability expounds upon this further and fleshes out the deep and personal motivations and outcomes of all the characters involved.
To this day, it remains a bestseller. Not only was it picked up by Oprah’s Book Club a decade ago, it was adapted into film and television presentations as well (the former starring James Dean) and there is still plans in the works for another film adaptation. For a book that sells tens of thousands of copies every year since 1952, we suggest to read it yourself and find out why!
Ed and Cynthia Justus are the owners of The Bookstore in Hanapepe.