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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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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • J.B.
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States
  • 04-13-16

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.

60 of 63 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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!

82 of 89 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.

58 of 63 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

18 of 19 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.

20 of 22 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.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

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Truth, Choice, and the Freedom That Lies Within

Steinbeck's 'East of Eden' is a thinly-veiled treatment of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. No knowledge of Christianity is required for admission (I myself am not Christian).

Why this title wins with me is that Steinbeck presents the themes of Cain and Abel at a level that transcends its biblical origins, making those themes available to a much wider audience. Case in point: the character who perhaps embodies this theme most is--of all people--a Oriental servant with Confucian ancestry.

The plot, editorial interludes, and Steinbeck's wonderful gift of dialog keep the pages turning. While 'Eden' is short on positive female characters (Liza and Abra are minor at best), the characters of Sam Hamilton and Lee prove to be not only enduring leads, but superb role models as well. Themes of free will, parent/child relationships, good/evil, and the value of honesty throughout. I want to hand this book to any young adult male struggling with esteem, identity or direction.

Written later in his career, Steinbeck was especially proud of 'Eden,' and indeed it is a jewel of a read. It has its imperfections (e.g., superfluous characters), but in his own words: "And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good". Poe's narration does wonderful justice to this title. Long live Steinbeck.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Modern Fiction Writers take Lessons From John Steinbeck

Full characterization . Sequentially told. Show not tell. One point of view yet periodically multi views within a chapter. Reader has opportunity to get inside characters without prejudice. Non-predictable. Rich language without self-consciousness. Philosophical message imbedded through lovable and believeable characters. Economy of sentence structure yet natural. Audible version: great narrator. Didn't force dialect or tone of different persons but easily distinguishable. I will now read more of John Steinbeck!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A fantastic book to revisit. Love Steinbeck

Any additional comments?

Such a wonderful story. John Steinbeck was amazing at character development and plot. While this is largely a sad tale it is so richly and beautifully told.
The narrator was great.
So glad I revisited this great tale. I know I got so much more out of it than when I was younger.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful