Sunday, January 31, 2010

review :: East of Eden

John Steinbeck

I really, really enjoy Steinbeck's writing. A lot. I expected much from East of Eden, as several of my friends have read it over the last couple of years and raved. I was not disappointed. 

East of Eden is truly epic. The story follows the lives of two families--the Trasks and the Hamiltons--and their helpless portrayal of fallen mankind. With mesmerizing characters, Steinbeck illustrates for us the age-old questions and mysteries of existence, love beyond comprehension, and the fatal tragedy of love's absence. 

On top of brilliant characters, the setting of Salinas Valley is alive and animated, and paints a rich backdrop for this modern retelling of the Biblical book of Genesis.

One of my favorite passages comes from Sam Hamilton, talking about his crotchety old horse, Doxology:
Everything was wrong with him, hoofs like flapjacks, a hock so thick and short and straight there seems no joint at all. He's hammerheaded and swaybacked. He has a pinched chest and a big behind. He has an iron mouth and he still fights the crupper. With a saddle he feels as though you were riding a sled over a gravel pit. He can't trot and he stumbles over his feet when he walks. I have never in thirty-three years found one good thing about him. He even has an ugly disposition. To this day I don't dare walk behind him because he will surely take a kick at me. When I feed him mash he tries to bite my hand. And I love him.
I was really pleased with the way the story ended. Steinbeck does not tie everything up and trim the frayed edges. It almost ends in media res. You just know that the characters are going to continue on living and struggling to live and make right choices and experience everything that human existence has to offer.

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