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Publisher's Summary

This sprawling and often brutal novel, set in the rich farmlands of California's Salinas Valley, 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.

©1952 John Steinbeck; Renewed 1980 Elaine Steinbeck, Thom Steinbeck, and John Steinbeck IV (P)2011 Penguin Audio

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This Drama Prepares You for Life

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck, and narrated by Richard Poe. A journey into youth’s tortured parental burdens. I saw the movie decades ago yet, as I read the story the scenes came back to me in vivid recollections. That movie did justice to the book, because it was brilliantly directed, magnificently filmed, and just the best acting ever seen.

Somehow I have only managed to read three of Steinbeck’s works. The Grapes of Wrath and Travels with Charley in Search of America. The first read was Travels, at about fourteen and I did myself wrong. Travels bored me. Then I read Grapes of Wrath and thought, no author could involve me more in his story than Steinbeck. No story could have more enthralling characters, no story could be so moving, and no author could teach me more about life. That was until I read East of Eden. Wikipedia reports Steinbeck as saying, "It has everything in it I have been able to learn about my craft or profession in all these years." He further claimed: "I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this." He understates how its excellence as entertainment and enlightenment.

Steinbeck’s East of Eden is perfect tragedy. A form of drama, a story of human conflicts, based on human suffering that invokes an accompanying catharsis is the reader/listener. There are a plethora of human evils here to examine, and then to consider how it is we cause torture on one another.

Why should one commit themselves to such torment? Because life is conflict and resolution, about compelling actions and reactions, and discovery of the nature of man and hope that it will assist us in our confrontations with other human beings. Perhaps even give us an advantage in the next encounter with evil or appreciate the next encounter with love.
Steinbeck will teach you to be prepared.

24 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

American classic, not to be missed.

East of Eden has to be one of the finest books every written by an American author. Over the years, I've read it about four times -- this was my first listen. Every time I read it again, I saw new things, new connections, new nuggets of insight I hadn't seen before -- this time, listening to it, that happened again. I lived for many years in Steinbeck country -- Pacific Grove, Monterey County -- so among the things I loved were the achingly beautiful descriptions of the countryside, the people, the farmers. A hundred years have passed, but many things in the Salinas Valley haven't changed -- it's still the "Salad Bowl" of the US, so when Adam Trask tries to ship lettuce to the east coast, that's probably based on a real story. I loved the tales of Salinas' early days, with the whorehouses, the churches, women wearing gloves - or not. (Come to think of it, there probably stilll are whorehouses there too) All in all, it's just a magnificent family saga, in every way. Makes you laugh, makes you cry. Incredible book -- and Richard Poe did a wonderful job narrating -- his "Lee" came fully to life for me, and I thought he made the very different characters of Caleb and Aaron clear, just by their voices and how they spoke. Really excellent book -- thanks Audible!

65 of 69 people found this review helpful

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  • Suzn F
  • Fletcher, VT, US
  • 07-07-11

Epic story of Love and Loss

This is a story of family, nuclear and global. The story centers around twin brothers Aaron and Caleb Trask, yet it becomes perhaps more a story of their parents, Adam and Catherine. Cathy is a dark character, a friend of murder, perversion, blackmail, and prostitution, devoid of humanity and Adam is just the opposite.
And there is Lee, the family servant who becomes both mother and father to the twins as the two parents abandon the boys for their own disparate reasons.
The mood and setting are tangible; the story epic. I'm so happy to be able to listen ( terrific narrator) to one of my favorite authors.

56 of 60 people found this review helpful

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Very compelling book and great narration

What about Richard Poe’s performance did you like?

Richard Poe did a great job. Very professional and pleasant all around. He really brought the book to life and his voice suited the material very nicely.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Well, one sitting would be a bit much, but, yes, I was always eager to listen too more.

Any additional comments?

Glad I was finally able to experience this classic. I've been enjoying Steinbeck lately. I'm new to Audible, and this is the type of book that I'm most interested in: classics with great narration.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • KP
  • United States
  • 03-31-13

An Experience Everyone Should Have

Incredible, incredible, incredible. Great story, great writing, and solid narration combine to make this a must-listen. I especially liked the dialogue and description of California such that the land almost becomes a character. Plus, the well-developed characters are all very original and you learn as much about their flaws as their strengths.

It takes place in the early 1900's and it is so well-written that you can smell, taste, and imagine the surroundings. The novel introduces several cultural references that make you feel like you really understand that time. Just incredible! I understand why Steinbeck thought this was "his magnum opus".

The narrator does a nice job given the complexity of so many characters.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Eric
  • MALIBU, CA, United States
  • 08-08-14

Started slow and then became amazing...

I will start by saying that this book took a bit to get into. My son recommended it, and that created my entree. The narrator (Richard Poe) was outstanding. The story of the Trasks and the Hamiltons held my interest at the beginning, but I kept reserving judgment, wondering why Steinbeck considered this his greatest work. Steinbeck channels different messages through the stories of all the characters, but I think his alter ego was the Chinese character Lee, and it was in a dialog with Lee, about 30% into the story, that EoE started to come together in my mind as a mythic masterpiece. The writing, of course, is amazing. It brings you straight into early 20th century central California, with the same intensity that Larry McMurtry takes you into the old West. (Sorry for those who think it is an unfair comparison to either McMurtry or Steinbeck - Lonesome Dove is unrivaled for making the American past come alive through brilliant writing, even if nothing else by McMurtry was as good.)

This is an engrossing rendering of many characters but with the archetypes of Cain and Abel through the lens of the Salina Valley in California, via the characters of Charles and Adam and then Caleb and Aron. The C-A initials are a simple device that lets the reader know that when they think Cain and Abel, they have arrived in the author's mental neighborhood, but the layers and complexity from there are amazing, rich, and unpredictable.

The Hebrew expression "timshel" holds great import in this story, encapsulating a philosophy of human will and potential. I won't presume to know Steinbeck's held meaning, but Lee's exposition of the term is riveting and colors or flavors all of the character development in the story.

Definitely a high recommend, and a rare (for me) 5-star rating.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Possibly the best audio book I have heard

I missed reading this when young, and the only impression I had of it was from the James Dean film, I am sad to say. This narrator sounds like the voice of Steinbeck whispering in your ear. I reach work in the morning desperate to leave my headphones on because I cannot bear to be parted from the book. It is the very best of Steinbeck produced and read to perfection. I may just start listening to it from the beginning in a couple of hours when I reach the end.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Absolutely the best book I have yet to read

Not only is this book incredibly written, the narration makes it come alive in ways never imagined before. a masterpiece.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Fertile, colorful Biblical tale of flawed humanity

This novel wasn't on my 1980s school reading list which included Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and "Grapes of Wrath." After now reading the novel and listening to the audible version of "East of Eden," this seems to me, Steinbeck at the apex of his abundant storytelling talents.

He set out intending to write a story based loosely on the Bible's tale of Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel and splendidly succeeded. No more morally-corrupt, evil female character can be found in the canon of American Literature than Cathy Ames (which seems to have caused most of the poor ratings flowing on other book sites from a front of feminist paramilitants). All the males in the novel have major character flaws and seem so real.

I like this narrator, in the main. The ever-present breathless pauses at the end of each sentence do get annoying though.

The novel fired up a sparkler of emotions in me, took me back to an open country of California in the early 20th century. I highly recommend it.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Kelly
  • Colorado Springs
  • 03-25-17

Why have I avoided this Beautiful Book???

I do not know why I have never read this book. Perhaps I thought this classic would be dull and boring. Perhaps I thought it would be too difficult to enjoy. Perhaps I thought it wouldn't stand the test of time. Or, perhaps, I was simply an idiot who denied herself a deliciously beautiful story!

There are many wonderful reviews of this book that will talk about the symbolism and allegory found here. I won't be talking about the Cain & Abel theme. I have no great insights into the Bible and am wholly incapable of doing more than mention to that aspect of the book.

What I will say is this: the characters are deep, complex, real, and flawed. They are people you will find compassion for. They are people who will anger. They are depraved and loving. You will both like and detest each of them. They are people who will make you think and feel. Mr. Steinbeck has written each of them a profound and subtle touch which made me feel as though I truly knew them. Adam, Charles, Aaron and Cal became my neighbors. They became my friends. I saw in them all the things I see in the people who populate the real world.

At the close of the book I was deeply sad to leave them behind and I find myself thinking about them often during the days that have followed. I will certainly visit the Trask family again.

Richard Poe perfectly narrated this book. He was spare with emotion, allowing the listener to see how closed these men were with their own emotions. He also didn't try to impose much accent on the voices of the Trask men which allowed Lee's accent to standout which felt appropriate.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful