Summary: The masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years-a vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis
In his journal, Steinbeck called East of Eden “the first book,” and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. 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 is a work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence….Read more.
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John Steinbeck: East of Eden Audio Book Summary
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Summary of The Novel
East of Eden is a moving story of a man named Samuel Hamilton and is based in the late nineteenth century. Samuel has just relocated to the Salinas Valley in north California. He has moved in with his loving wife Liza from Ireland. He is well respected in the community but he seems to want more than mere respect. Apparently he has never and still fails to become the wealthy man he has always wanted to be. However, his family of nine kids soon becomes very prominent in the valley.
The story introduces another man, Adam Trask, who has also recently settled in the valley with his pregnant wife Cathy. Adam previously lived with his half-brother Charles in Connecticut. Charles is always envious of his brother and they never seem to get along. Their father, Cyrus, had taken a special kind of likeness for Adam due to his inherent good nature. Their father dies and leaves behind a whole lot of wealth for the two sons to share. In spite of this, the two still do not get along.
Cathy happens to be a former prostitute who killed her parents some time back. The facts of her former life are unknown to the two brothers. Adam is sincerely in love with her while Charles loathes her. Nonetheless, he drugs his brother Adam and then proceeds to sleep with his wife Cathy on their wedding night. The rivalry between the two soon drives Adam and Cathy to California. After several attempts to abort the pregnancy, Cathy gives birth to twins.
The twins are named Aron and Caleb. Cathy hates her motherly status and everything that comes with it, including her husband and kids. She gets fed up and one day shoots her husband before fleeing to Salinas to resume her prostitute life. She gains the trust of the local madam at the brothel, but shortly poisons her to take over the running of the brothel. She is very successful at manipulating her customers and fellow prostitutes alike and soon makes a fortune out of blackmailing some of her more distinguished guests.
Meanwhile, Adam has lied to the cops about the shooting to protect his dear wife whom he doesnít know is a prostitute. Samuel is privy to the fact that Cathy is now a full-time whore in the valley but chooses not to reveal this to Adam or the twins. Aron slowly takes up his fatherís good character while his twin-brother Cal is a perfect replica of their mother. After living amicably with Samuel in the valley for years, Samuel dies but not before telling Adam the truth about his wife.
After the funeral Adam visits the brothel to see his wife Cathy and after their encounter, he is livelier and more committed to his kids. He moves his family from the ranch to the Salinas where the two kids could attend school. The rest of the story is about the familyís struggles to make the best out of their lives. They are still faced with a lot of challenges along the way but their interaction with the Hamiltons helps a lot.