East of Eden- John Steinbeck

This book, maybe more than any book I’ve read before, or since, forces you to look inside yourself and really, really see. It is about the human condition, and why everything will and does hurt, and why this thing we have is still beautiful. That everything about being a person hurts those that are the softest and barely touches a hardened heart. It makes me think about why being soft is still the only real choice.

I had never read Steinbeck before, even though someone very dear to me has been recommending East of Eden for many years. I wish I’d read it sooner; I wish I hadn’t read it yet so I could read it for the first time again- it’s that kind of book. After finishing it, you will see its words, Adam Trask, Cal, the town of Salinas, everywhere. You will see the choices in everything. This is a book that presses its weight into the rest of your life.

It is a book about families, generations following generations, and how things change, but the story is always the same. You will learn a little bit of Hebrew, and a lot about why we call people we don’t understand monsters. You will carry a map of the Salinas valley in your head always, and the first few times you see running water after reading it, you will feel a small ache for Samuel Hamilton. You will feel incredibly lucky. I did, and I do. That words like these, a story like this, exists, is why writing will always be something to be cherished. It teaches us about who we are; why we are. I have no higher praise for a piece of fiction. But then, this book doesn’t really feel like fiction at all.

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