East of Eden, Under the Overpass

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Expecting this to be a bit of a slog, I opted for the audio book. Reviews I'd looked at swung wildly between wonderful and horrible, so, seeing it was quite lengthy, I chose to take the easier road. Now I wish I'd read a hard copy. It gave me a lot to think about; I'd stop listening to consider what they'd just said and what it meant to me, and ten minutes would slip away before I'd remember to get back to it. It's the kind of book that compels you to keep a pen in your hand for underlining meaningful passages, and then, when you come to the end, you close the cover and sit quietly, grateful for the experience.   

It begins with two brothers Charles and Adam Trask, sons of Cyrus Trask. Charles loves his father, while Adam merely respects him, and Charles is painfully aware that of his two sons, Cyrus loves Adam more. Adam is coerced by his father to join the army, while Charles goes on to be a prosperous farmer. In time Adam marries Cathy, the worst of all possible choices for a wife, and they have twins. Cathy doesn't want anything to do with them and Adam sinks into a depression, not caring for his sons or even naming them. Fortunately he has Lee, his cook, a wonderful character, to tend them until a neighbour, Samuel, another great character, comes to remind Adam rather forcefully that he has two sons to raise. The boys get named, grow up, and eventually meet their mother, a trauma impacting them in radically different ways. 

Good and evil, destiny and free will, these are the main themes. The twins, like all of us, have both good and evil tendencies, and with one tending more heavily to the wrong side of the scale, the book asks if darkness is his destiny or if he can choose who he will be in the world.

East of Eden is a powerful story, insightful and utterly absorbing. A great read.

Under The Overpass by Mike Yankoski

These are the eye-opening experiences of two young men who stepped away from university for a few months to live with the homeless on the streets of several major US cities. They slept in shelters when beds were available but spent most nights outside in parks or in any reasonably safe spot they could find. Money for food and bus tickets to the next city was earned panhandling - singing and playing guitar. Their experience, though harrowing, was not truly the same as that of other people on the streets because they always had a safety net. They knew they could walk away from it at any time, and even if they did stick it out for the planned time period, eventually they'd be going back to their normal lives, with warm beds, clean clothes and plentiful food. Still, what they saw and heard while they were out there changed them and gave them stories to tell that are worth the reading.  


shelleyrae @ book'd out said...

Hmm Under the Overpass sounds interesting, though there are evidently some problems given the authors status. Thanks for sharing

Ordinary Reader said...

Hi Shelleyrae. Yes, is interesting for sure. I've always liked books that set me in the middle of a situation I know nothing about and let me live there for awhile, if only vicariously. So many stories, so much to learn, and so little time!

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