East of Eden

( 541 )

Overview

In his journal, John Steinbeck called East of Eden "the first book," and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California's Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel 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.

Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his ...

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East of Eden

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Overview

In his journal, John Steinbeck called East of Eden "the first book," and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California's Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel 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.

Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his family on the new, rich land. But the birth of his twins, Cal and Aron, brings his wife to the brink of madness, and Adam is left alone to raise his boys to manhood. One boy thrives, nurtured by the love of all those around him; the other grows up in loneliness, enveloped by a mysterious darkness.

First published in 1952, East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love's absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck's later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis.

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. "A strange and original work of art."--New York Times Book Review.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"A novel planned on the grandest possible scale...One of those occasions when a writer has aimed high and then summoned every ounce of energy, talent, seriousness, and passion of which he was capable...It is an entirely interesting and impressive book."
The New York Herald Tribune
 

"A fantasia and myth...a strange and original work of art."
—The New York Times Book Review
 

"A moving, crying pageant with wilderness strengths."
—Carl Sandburg

"When the book club ended a year ago, I said I would bring it back when I found the book that was moving…and this is a great one. I read it for myself for the first time and then I had some friends read it. And we think it might be the best novel we've ever read!"
—Oprah Winfrey

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140186390
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/28/1992
  • Series: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics Series
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 13,945
  • Lexile: 700L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 10.66 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

JOHN STEINBECK (1902—1968) was born in Salinas, California. He worked as a laborer and a journalist, and in 1935, when he published Tortilla Flat, he achieved popular success and financial security. Steinbeck wrote more than twenty-five novels and won the Nobel Prize in 1962. Nearly all of his books are available in Penguin Classics.

Biography

John Ernst Steinbeck, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner, was born in Salinas, California February 27, 1902. His father, John Steinbeck, served as Monterey County Treasurer for many years. His mother, Olive Hamilton, was a former schoolteacher who developed in him a love of literature. Young Steinbeck came to know the Salinas Valley well, working as a hired hand on nearby ranches in Monterey County. In 1919, he graduated from Salinas High School as president of his class and entered Stanford University majoring in English. Stanford did not claim his undivided attention. During this time he attended only sporadically while working at a variety jobs including on with the Big Sur highway project, and one at Spreckels Sugar Company near Salinas.

Steinbeck left Stanford permanently in 1925 to pursue a career in writing in New York City. He was unsuccessful and returned, disappointed, to California the following year. Though his first novel, Cup of Gold, was published in 1929, it attracted little literary attention. Two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven and To A God Unknown, met the same fate.

After moving to the Monterey Peninsula in 1930, Steinbeck and his new wife, Carol Henning, made their home in Pacific Grove. Here, not far from famed Cannery Row, heart of the California sardine industry, Steinbeck found material he would later use for two more works, Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row.

With Tortilla Flat (1935), Steinbeck's career took a decidedly positive turn, receiving the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal. He felt encouraged to continue writing, relying on extensive research and personal observation of the human drama for his stories. In 1937, Of Mice and Men was published. Two years later, the novel was produced on Broadway and made into a movie. In 1940, Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Grapes of Wrath, bringing to public attention the plight of dispossessed farmers.

After Steinbeck and Henning divorced in 1942, he married Gwyndolyn Conger. The couple moved to New York City and had two sons, Thomas and two years later, John. During the war years, Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Some of his dispatches reappeared in Once There Was A War. In 1945, Steinbeck published Cannery Row and continued to write prolifically, producing plays, short stories and film scripts. In 1950, he married Elaine Anderson Scott and they remained together until his death.

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "...for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and keen social perception.." In his acceptance speech, Steinbeck summarized what he sought to achieve through his works:

"...Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it and it has not changed except to become more needed. The skalds, the bards, the writers are not separate and exclusive. From the beginning, their functions, their duties, their responsibilities have been decreed by our species...Further more, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity of greatness of heart and spirit—gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and emulation. I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature..."

Steinbeck remained a private person, shunning publicity and moving frequently in his search for privacy. He died on December 20, 1968 in New York City, where he and his family made a home. But his final resting place was the valley he had written about with such passion. At his request, his ashes were interred in the Garden of Memories cemetery in Salinas. He is survived by his son, Thomas.

Author biography courtesy of the National Steinbeck Center.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Amnesia Glasscock
      John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. (full name); Amnesia Glasscock
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 27, 1902
    2. Place of Birth:
      Salinas, California
    1. Date of Death:
      December 20, 1968
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 541 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(399)

4 Star

(83)

3 Star

(29)

2 Star

(17)

1 Star

(13)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 544 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    A TIMELSSS CLASSIC!!!

    A well-written book, a classic deemed worthy of reading. Steinbeck does a great job of making the piece of literature entertaining. I felt glued to the book many times because the plot would be wonderfully constructed, leading readers on an adventurous journey through the lives of the characters in the Salinas Valley.What surprised me the most were the characters in the story. Each individual character had his or her own unique personality. Each person seemed real and true to life. I would be going through the book and start saying to myself "oh this character reminds me of so and so." Plus, the characters are dynamic and many of their personalities are not at the extremes, but instead they have both the good qualities and bad qualities of mankind. I love how I can read into each character and judge him or her through his or her actions. The subtlety in revealing the motives behind each character was astonishing. The way Steinbeck depicted the characters through their dialogue and actions was overwhelming as I soon developed my personal opinion on each character. It made me feel like I was involved in the story itself.<BR/>Adding to the amazing characters is in intricate, well-developed story line. The plot was complex in that there were many subplots running through the main action. However, when I was reading, the complexity of the story did not hinder my progression because everything seemed to flow. The story was being pieced together in a rhythmic fashion as one event leads to another. The biblical allusion to Cain and Abel was also a fun thing to locate. After reading the story of Cain and Abel, I would go through the East of Eden and get excited when I would notice the similarity or the differences between East of Eden and the biblical story of Cain and Abel. Steinbeck truly does a fascinating job of weaving his story together. His work is fascinating and artful.<BR/>Although the book is rather long, the wonderful characters and amazing plot line makes up for it ten times over. I highly recommend this book to those who appreciate good writing that stays with you for days on end, and then some!

    24 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2007

    Best Book I've Ever Read

    If you don't mind epics and you love finely-drawn characters, you'll adore this book. Each character becomes real, and each of them are fascinating, especially Kate, the cruel adulteress and madam whose presence haunts both her sons. I can't possibly summarize the whole book, but trust me: The story's great, the characters are wonderful, and the message is admirable (a rarity in modern fiction). The James Dean film does justice to the character of Cal, while the Jane Seymour miniseries does justice to Kate. I'd recommend both, but neither do justice to the novel as a whole.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2012

    A MUST READ Classic masterpiece of American Literature!

    Some books are easy to read quickly, enjoy, and forget, but others exert a huge influence that isn't as easy to discard from your mental library. In my fifteen years of life, my hands passed through an insane number of books, but only one held the power to open the doors to my changed perspective about reading and the world. At first sight, the length of East of Eden led me to thinking of it as an encyclopedia.

    East of Eden is a story that combines good and evil, strength and weakness, love and hate, beauty and ugliness, and many more nearly impossible contradictions. It's an in depth look at different people who are related to one another and the effect they have on each other. This book deals with good versus evil in Salinas Valley, California, during the early 1900's and displays the amount of evil that is in one family and how it grows among all people. Over and over again, this book questions the reader whether evil is something that is fated or if our lives are ruled by moral choice.

    I closed the book learning that our circumstances do not determine our lives, instead our lives are determined by our choices. We have that option to decide not to be influenced by our dark family histories, but instead select from a number of possibilities to live a more positive life. Although at times human history may place forces into our lives that cannot be controlled, we always have the authority and external strength to use our free will to choose between good and evil. At the end of all things, our free will is the ultimate decider in the course of moral destiny. Simply put, the big idea in here insists on everyone to forget the past and forge a better future. At the very end, both good and evil are inseparable opposites that must coexist.

    After all, I found this strange and original work of art to be extremely enduring with its very rich and intensive themes that made me escape outside of the words printed on the pages. My favorite part of all was grabbing phenomenal, thought provoking quotes from this book and applying them to reality. Good and evil was definitely proved superior in strength, power, and influence. I stared to think broadly about all the things that could possibly prevail in this world. Once I opened the book, I was able to quickly fly into the never ending words of utmost attraction and charm.

    Steinbeck is a brilliant writer, who can incorporate creativity, curiosity, enthusiasm, motivation, originality, philosophy, thoughtfulness, and so much more, to mesmerize the reader and have the reader envy him. This book might be long and, at times, slow, however it is well worth the read. I recommend it to anyone who wants to live life and explore and discover not only an extraordinary book, but also another part of themselves.
    Since the age of twelve, I've read the book three times, and every time I've read it, I learned something different and my insights slightly changed. With no doubt, if I pick this book up again in the next fifty years of my life, it will still hold the power to captivate me and move me. When I look back to my last moments with this book, I see that my initial thought was never really wrong; East of Eden did serve as an encyclopedia for adventure, fantastic writing, indescribable imagination, overwhelming amounts of knowledge, uninterrupted inspiration and thoughts, and strong emotions.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2010

    Great Book

    This is my all time favorite novel. This is a novel that I really hated to end and one of the few novels that I have read more than once.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Steinbeck's "Greatest Work" a Twist on the Classic Good vs. Evil

    It is easy to be intimidated by East of Eden. At 601 pages, this complex novel is anything but a light read. However, it is impossible not to become mesmerized by this contemporary twist on the classic tale of good vs. evil. Shadowing biblical stories of the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the bitterness between Cain and Abel, East of Eden details the interwoven lives and struggles of two families located in California's Salinas Valley, the Trasks and the Hamiltons.

    The first half of the novel revolves around Adam Trask's foolish love for his beautiful wife Catherine Ames. As he ambitiously travels to California to raise a family, her love proves to be poisonous as Catherine, now known as Kate, heartlessly abandons Adam with two young sons, Aron and Cal. The last half of the novel portrays Adam's uneven love for his sons; Aron, loved by all, is held in Adam's highest respect while Cal, the outsider of the family, is neglected.

    Steinbeck's characters are honest and real; it is these blunt characterizations that define East of Eden. For example, Steinbeck immediately portrays Catherine Ames in a negative manner as he states, "I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents. . . . The
    face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul?" (71). By portraying Catherine as cruel and vicious, Steinbeck effectively foreshadows and projects the negative impact of her actions on other characters in the novel.

    East of Eden is undeniably deep, therefore a perfect adventure for avid readers. Referred to as Steinbeck's proudest work, East of Eden is a classic will acquire a prominent place on every bookshelf, begging to be read again and again.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Better than I expected.

    I had to read this for school, and I was surprised. I actually enjoyed it. The characters and plot were complex, and it was well written. It was a true classic.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    Good narrative

    I love stories about sociopaths.

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read!

    East of Eden was a great book. I was assigned to read for my AP English class, and as always, I thought it was going to be another boring, dull, senseless book. I was very wrong. This book was fantastic. It is very unique. The twist on the book of Genius is very clever. The characters were outstanding. Mr. Steinbeck described them so well. I got a very vivid image in my mind. I would recommend this book to anyone. It is truly a great read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Clever Retelling

    Steinbeck's East of Eden is a fantastic retelling of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. The representation of Cain in Charles and Caleb, and Abel in Adam and Aron foreshadows the fates of the characters, while setting the stage for many pleasant surprises. The novel's greatest treasure is in its emphasis on the ideal of "timshel," as Caleb's struggles against his innate evil becomes the defining plotline of the book. I was able to sympathize with his pursuit of a life untainted by his mother's past and admire his courage in the face of adversity. Thus, I feel that the novel's greatest appeal is in the character Cal, who, while flawed, epitomizes the concept of "thou mayest." The "Abel" character, while allowed to live in the grace of God, does so only transiently (Aron), or at the cost of naivet&#233; and vulnerability (Adam). In a sense, the book continues the story where the Bible left off, bringing closure to the newly designated protagonist: the Cain-like Cal.
    Repeated reference to the story of Cain and Abel provides hope for Caleb, while foreshadowing doom for Aron. Samuel's reading of the text sets the backdrop for the novel's conclusion, subtly foreshadowing the reversed fates of the two characters. Gradually, I was diverted from the "perfection" of Aron, and led to commiserate with the epic struggles of Cal, whose resolute will set him above Aron, despite their innate traits.
    The alteration to the Biblical story created a pleasant message. As Adam leaves his son with a final blessing-the reminder of "timshel"-he serves a purpose Abel was unable to achieve. He is vindicated, proven worthy of his father's favor, and both "Cain" and "Abel" are evidently affected by God's blessing.
    Through minor characters, Steinbeck effectively leads to Adam's ultimate epiphany. Lee's unwavering conviction in the idea of "timshel" parallels Moses' vision and guides Cal through his struggle-an analogy to the spiritual wilderness of the Israelites. In times of Cal's resignation to his innate evil, Lee's words serve as reminder that there is always the choice to overcome sin. Under Lee's leadership, Adam is led to realize his repetition of Cyrus' mistake through the denial of Cal in favor for Aron, and prompted to bless Cal in his final words. The concluding message of the novel is one alluded to since the beginning. Not only does Steinbeck's novel continue the Bible's story, it finishes it beautifully, inspiring hope for Cal's future and the fate of humanity.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2009

    Don't let the length mislead you

    Many associate ¿boring¿ with ¿long¿ book, but I assure you that the East of Eden is a worthwhile read. There are three parts to this story, but all are equally interesting. It may feel confusing at times, but it is only a passing thought. This book never gets boring¿the overlapping plotlines gave more to John Steinbeck to work with, therefore creating his, in my opinion, masterpiece. <BR/><BR/>First of all, the characters are truly unique (except for the fact that they are based off some characters in the Bible), made by Steinbeck to enhance his story. Before reading this book, I never would have believed someone to be innately evil; it is usually some kind of major psychological change that causes them to behave that way. However, Cathy is another matter. Steinbeck describes her so well that you sometimes wonder if he has met someone like that before, and managed to escape with his life. <BR/><BR/>Another character would be Aron. Sometimes you wonder if he is actually that good; if Cathy were the epitome of evil, Aron is the epitome of good. And his counterpart, Cal, is equally intriguing. Though he is dark and secretive, he does not, and cannot, compare to Cathy¿s evilness. We can all relate to his struggles to become ¿good,¿ like his brother; it is a struggle we have ourselves.<BR/><BR/>The biblical allusions make this story even more amazing. Though the book may seem enhanced by the allusions, the very fact that Steinbeck is able to continuously allude to the Bible is admirable. In a way, we are able to understand the Bible stories even more after reading this book.<BR/><BR/>With characters as intriguing as Aron and Cathy, and even Cal, as well as the wonderful plotline, Steinbeck writes one of his best works ever. Make sure you read it¿you won¿t regret it!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2008

    Pulls you in!

    This story spans multiple generations of the Hamilton and Trask family starting in the late 1800's. The author really does a good job of getting you to care about the characters, and this will definitely NOT be the last Steinbeck novel that I read. I highly recommend this book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2008

    Timshel!

    I fist read this book when I was in 8th Grade. I was the only kid who got anything about it. I love Steinbeck, his writing is amazing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2007

    Adam Trask at his worst--Steinbeck at his best

    Faulkner once wrote that the only thing worth writing about was the conflict within the human heart. Enter EAST OF EDEN, Steinbeck's best work. This is the essence of this book: conflict. And the physical clashes that take place in the book only mirror what Steinbeck is really writing about: the fact that we all have a choice to be who we are, or aren't. This is the story to two brothers who compete for their father's attention. The parallels to the bible are so obvious that they're almost insulting, but after reading many of the reviews here, I'm shocked at how many people don't get this. All the characters can be seen as metaphors and symbols, but even if you don't know this, you can still read this book on the level it was probably written for. But Steinbeck didn't just write symbolically rather, he meant this parallel to be noticed and even points to this with the use of the Hebrew word 'Timshel' which he (and others) translates as thou mayest, meaing that we all have a choice. There's a reason this book is still a bestseller, and it's not because of Oprah, though I'm glad she brought new attention to it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    East of Eden worth it?!?!?!

    Yes, the story is very interesting and a bit comical with many biblical allusions

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2011

    An All-time Favorite!!

    I read this book at least once a year. It is such a good story -- full of life and fascinating characters and events. A true classic!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2012

    WOW...

    Was a little slow getting started, but then the characters really came alive for me. I could not put the book down. I understand now why his writing was so acclaimed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2010

    The land of Nod

    I liked this book a lot because it made me think of my own character and choices I've made and how they compared with the books characters.

    It uses the biblical story of Cain and Abel as a framework to further develop his work which is a message to humanity about the ESSENCE of the survivability of mankind.

    It is a very well crafted novel which I would highly recommend to anyone who wishes to enjoy a high quality book.

    Read ebook on a B&N Nook in accessible .ePub format.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2009

    Ages like a fine wine

    It's been over 30 years since I first read this book and I am stunned by how timely it remains. Stainbeck has an amazing ability to peel away the layers of the human soul in a manner that is both facinating and frightening. The story of the Hamilton and Trask familes provides a canvas for a picture of what makes us human, both good and bad. I enjoyed this book when I initially read it as a young man but truly appreciate its greatness now that I can view it against my own life experiences.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2008

    Great Read...

    Symbolism and metaphor abound in Steinbeck¿s historical novel. Beautiful in scope and imagination, the retelling of the book of Genesis couldn¿t get any better than this.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2007

    Right on the money

    The title says it all...mankind has been banished from paradise, but is cursed and blessed with directions for finding it again. Steinbeck weaves a gripping tale that follows two naturally opposed, yet inherently good, brothers. Pay most attention to the Samuel Hamilton character he is in my opinion the most important character in the story, both for the plot and the message of hope. He is misleadingly foiled against his wife, who embodies the virtues of strength and faith, but I think we can gain an understanding of Christianity from his actions. This book is not about the Church or religion, but when we see Samuel and his wife, I think it is reasonable to suppose that Steinbeck meant to show the beauty and life that a true Christian personifies. Liza, Samuel's wife, represents the rigid and unquestioning faith in commands (Old Testament), whereas Samuel mirrors New Testament teachings in that his words, thoughts, and actions seem to 'fulfill' the good intentions of his wife - and in a beautifully Irish way. Read the book, let yourself sink into the lives of the characters, and if you possess the strength to finish the book despite its hellish entailments, you will emerge with a more optimistic and beautiful understanding of human life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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