Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
John Steinbeck’s books are a mainstay of high-school reading lists for a reason. East of Eden, in particular, supplies precisely the kind of generational drama and grand moral philosophizing that make for a great term paper. But this Cain and Abel parable about the power of good and evil is also as juicy and compelling as a soap opera. One warning: The novel is definitely of its era, in which men make America go round and the female characters tend toward the prostitute, sociopath, or boozy religious nut.