Monday, October 5, 2009

More on "East Of Eden"

As I wrote earlier today, East Of Eden is an enjoyable book, at least it was for me. It would most likely fall under the genre literary fiction, for it tells more about relationships than it provides action. If action adventures is what you are looking for, don't expect to find it in EoE.

What you will find, from beginning to end, is whorehouses and prostitutes. In every city, next to every army camp, where ever the characters are across America, a prostitute is sure to be in the scene. It seems that for Steinbeck the footsteps of all men eventually find their way into a whorehouse, at least once in their lives and most likely on a regular basis. This was not a particularly enjoyable part of the book, but Steinbeck actually handled it with tastefulness, not given us gratuitous sex scenes. The men were there, the prostitutes came, and the men indulged; details not included.

Maybe Steinbeck's world was like that. I know mine hasn't been, and so this was all something difficult to relate to. In the book, two men do not find their way to the ladies: the two main characters Samuel Hamilton and Adam Trask. Somehow these two heroes are not reduced to finding sexual gratification with prostitutes. Perhaps that is part of the story.

After taking a good chunk of the book for the characters to have their early lives and make their way to the Salinas Valley, the book sort of revolves around Trask's wayward wife, Cathy. She does not want to be a wife, monster that she is, and constantly tells Adam she will be leaving him after her child is born. He blows this off as pregnancy talk. When she gives birth to twins, as soon as she is able she packs a bag to leave. Adam prevents her, and she shoots him with his gun and leaves anyway. She only goes about fifty miles, to Salinas, largest city in the county, where she finds work in an established whorehouse, taking the name of Kate.

I don't want to say too much about the rest of the plot, in case someone who hasn't read it should stumble onto this blog and be searching for information before they read. The main characters are Hamilton, Trask and his wife, there twin sons Cal and Aron, and Lee, the American-Chinese servant of the Trask family. Lee is sort of the hero of the book: level-headed, hard working, intelligent, forward looking yet down to earth. When Adam Trask is in a ten year daze following his wife's departure, it is Lee who holds the family together, with a little help from Sam Hamilton.

One of the suspenseful parts of the book is whether the two boys will learn that their mother is not dead, as their dad said, but that she is really quite close and is not a nice person. When Adam Trask moves his small family from the remote farm to Salinas, you expect the boys to find out, somehow, even thought their dad won't tell them the truth.

I may write some more about this. A 601 page book deserves more than two posts, don't you think? For now I'll say this book is a keeper. I'm not sure I'll ever read it again. Maybe in a world where I don't have a reading pile fifteen deep, and shelves upon shelves of books in hand waiting to be read and thousands in stores waiting for me to buy. If you haven't read East Of Eden, I urge you to do so.

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