Welcome to the first official Oprah's Book Club Newsletter!

Book clubbers from all over the world have logged on and signed up for the fastest growing book club! As you know already, our first selection is John Steinbeck's East of Eden. Oprah says, "It's the perfect summer read...a novel so rich and full of drama you won't be able to turn the pages fast enough!" So—if you haven't already, pick up a copy and start reading the first five chapters of Part One.

You're just days away from receiving exclusive access to "Your Guide" to East of Eden. We'll bring you in-depth behind-the-scenes information on East of Eden—interactive family trees, riveting characters, recurring themes, how Steinbeck responded to his critics, and more!

Starting next week, Oprah will be sharing her thoughts with you as we go. There will be lots for you to think about!

Happy reading!
Hello Fellow Readers!

Our summer read has begun! Pick your favorite spot, take a deep breath and let yourself dive in...East of Eden will take you away!

By now, you've already begun to see how the theme of good and evil permeates East of Eden. You'll find it in almost every relationship, every chapter, and every plot development. Good and evil are drawn in the very landscapes Steinbeck describes.

And you've begun to meet the important people in the novel. It's quite a cast of characters, isn't it? Pay attention to Samuel Hamilton...his character is rich in symbolic meaning. As an inventor, he embodies much of what Steinbeck felt about creativity. Something to keep in mind—the entire Hamilton family is based on John Steinbeck's maternal family.

At the beginning of Chapter 5 is a description of Will Hamilton. It is one of my favorite passages in the book. I love it: "Will liked to live so no one could find fault with him, and to do that he had to live as like other people as possible."

I was struck by this poignant description, thinking how true it is that the only way to please others is to basically imitate them. Think of all the people we admire for doing great things. It is usually because they broke the mold and defined life in their own terms. I appreciate Steinbeck's characterizations; they make me think of life in a broader context.

There's so much to take in: the layered themes of good and evil, destiny, the role of women, the power of choice...so much to talk to about!

You'll hear from me again next Friday as we review Chapters 6–11. Go to Oprah.com to find other readers and to delve into your guide to every inch of this great story.

Read on...more great experiences to come!

Photo Credits: Tree photo from Steinbeck Country: Exploring the Settings for theStories by David A. Laws. John Steinbeck photo © William Ward Beecher, courtesy Globe Photos.
Hello readers! I hope your summer is going well. After two weeks of running around the country fulfilling obligations, and having 26 people over for a fun freedom 4th, I feel I can now finally relax and become engrossed in this story again.

The journey through East of Eden is getting darker. Things are heating up. Don't say I didn't warn you!

The Cain and Abel myth is being played out over many years between Charles and Adam Trask. The Trask family is, in some ways, a counterpoint to the Hamiltons; they are even more symbolic in Steinbeck's exploration of good and evil. In Adam, you see the struggle to find good, the desire for renewal, and the hope for a new start. His search continues through the very last page of the book.

And of course, you've now seen the heart of evil, in Cathy. She is truly a monster—evil incarnate! She is a woman you love to hate. You can see right through her can't you? Does it give you a little sense of superiority that the other characters don't see through her? How is it possible that Adam doesn't see her true colors?

Think about this. Some critics believe that the character of Cathy was influenced by Steinbeck's heartbreaking divorce from his second wife, Gwyn. He wrote in his Journal, "Cathy is going to worry a lot of...parents about their children but I have been perfectly honest about her and I certainly have her prototype."

Read on! As Steinbeck himself said, it is the book he had been "practicing for" all his life.

— Oprah

Photo Credits: John Steinbeck photo courtesy of Arthur Noskowiak. Salinas Valley photo from Steinbeck Country: Exploring the Settings for the Stories by David A. Laws.
Hello to book clubbers from Australia, England, South Korea, Canada—and readers all over the world!

You're now through the beginning of Part Two of East of Eden. The drama in Salinas Valley is truly riveting, isn't it? It really feels a little like the Wild West! I'm finding it hard to put it down, even the second time around! By now, Adam has begun to make his life in Salinas, his new Eden. And as the story crosses into the 20th century, you are entering into the psychic heart of America and history as Steinbeck saw it.

I love the opening of Chapter 13: "Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. ... At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions. What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against? ... And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. ... This is what I am and this is what I am about. ... If the glory can be killed, we are lost." I read this passage again and again, out loud sometimes just to hear the sound of it. It resonates with me.

You've met Lee, the Chinese cook and housekeeper, whose wisdom you've only begun to glimpse. His humility and clarity are a touchstone for all the characters in the book. Read his words carefully. His is a beautiful mind.

And just when you thought Cathy couldn't get more evil, she stuns us with the true ice that runs in her veins! In his ongoing questions on good and evil, Steinbeck ponders about Cathy: "It is easy to say she was bad, but there is little meaning unless we know why." Why do you think Cathy was capable of the pure cold-bloodedness we see?

Talk about that with your book clubs and I'll write again next week as we review Chapters 18–22!

— Oprah

Photo credit: Landscape photo courtesy of Steinbeck Country: Exploring the Settings for the Stories by David A. Laws

New! A Woman We Love to Hate
In a novel based on good and evil, Cathy's wickedness is as attractive as it is repellent. But can the goodness of all of the Hamilton women balance one evil character? Read an exclusive article from noted Steinbeck scholar Dr. Susan Shillinglaw!

Unlock the mystery of Cathy.
Hello summer readers!

Secrets, lies, manipulation and mystery will have your head spinning as we approach the half-way point of this page-turning saga. I'm hoping you're all in the thick of it by now!

As we finish Part Two, Cathy has left Adam and her newborn sons, moved into Salinas and made her startling transformation into Kate the prostitute. She masterminds a plan of murder and debauchery as she takes control of Faye's brothel. She is evil.

In Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, Steinbeck writes, "Cathy Ames is a monster—don't think they do not exist. If one can be born with a twisted and deformed face or body, one can surely also come into the world with a malformed soul."

I never thought of it that way before. A malformed soul feels like more than an aberration of nature...it feels like an aberration of spirit.

After a year, Adam has still not named his sons! As Samuel Hamilton and Lee push Adam to name his twins, we get to the heart of the book—the 16 verses of the biblical Cain and Abel story. It is retold and recast throughout East of Eden in the stories of Adam and Charles, Adam and Cathy, and in the newly named twins, Aaron [Aron] and Caleb.

In Lee's reflection on the power of the Cain and Abel parable, I find wisdom that is profoundly true:

"I think this is the best-known story in the world because it is everybody's story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul. ... The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. ... And with the rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt—and there is the story of mankind. I think if rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is. Maybe there would be fewer crazy people. I am sure in myself there would not be many jails. It is all there. ... It isn't simple at all. It's desperately complicated. But at the end there's light."

The greatest truth: the desire to be loved. There's so much for you and your reading groups to ponder until we talk again next week!
— Oprah

Photo credit: Landscape photo courtesy of Steinbeck Country: Exploring the Settings for the Stories by David A. Laws
Hello, my reading friends!

So much is unfolding as we enter into Part Three of this wonderful saga! The Hamilton family is transforming through time and tragedy. The Trask boys are literally evolving into Cain and Abel. After 11 years, Adam finally goes to Cathy and confronts her—and in doing so, he frees himself from the burden of her evil and depravity. And once again, our "teacher," Lee, brings us profound thought and wisdom. I could read these chapters again and again, they are so rich in story, texture and truth!

Samuel Hamilton is leaving ranch life in Salinas. He goes to bid farewell to his old friends Adam and Lee. Seeing Cal and Aron reminds Sam quite startlingly of Cain and Abel. Once again, the three men discuss the 16 verses of Chapter Four in the Book of Genesis since Lee has studied one line of the verses in great detail. His studies reveal the most powerful thread in the novel:

Lee explains that in the King James version of the Cain and Abel story, God says to Cain, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." Lee sees this as God's promise that Cain would conquer sin.

In the American Standard Bible, God says, "Do thou rule over him." Lee sees this not as a promise but as an order from God that Cain must conquer sin. Lee searches for the original Hebrew word to understand God's true intent in his words to Cain.

"Why is this word so important?" Lee asks. "The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—'Thou mayest'—that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest'—it is also true that 'Thou mayest not."

In his letters, Steinbeck wrote that timshel is "the offering of free will. Here is individual responsibility and the invention of conscience. You can if you will but it is up to you. ... This little story turns out to be one of the most profound in the world. I always felt it was but now I know it is." *
Timshel. Thou mayest. Choice. I believe that choices are how we create our lives in partnership with the Creator. And Lee says it so deftly: "Think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There's no godliness there. ... But this—this is a ladder to climb to the stars." ** Beautiful.

You can spend the whole of this coming week just pondering the power of choice in East of Eden and in your own life. And as we read Chapters 29–33, Part Three will have riches that we have not yet begun to mine! I look forward to continuing to read with you.

— Oprah

* Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, page 108.
** East of Eden, passages from pages 301–302.

Photo Credit: Landscape photo courtesy of Steinbeck Country: Exploring the Settings for the Stories by David A. Laws
Hello Fellow Book-Clubbers!

Do you feel as deeply immersed in Steinbeck's world as I do right now? Themes resonate and truths are more deeply illuminated with each new chapter!

The past returns and we glimpse future destinies as we move through the generations of this huge family chronicle. As we finish Part Three, we see a waning of the Hamiltons. None but the most pragmatic—like Will Hamilton—seem to survive. In an effort to end his beloved sister Dessie's mysterious ailment, Tom accidentally causes her death. Unable to endure his guilt, Tom ends his life with a Smith & Wesson .38. It's almost as though the dreamers and tender-hearted people cannot survive in a world of modern struggle.

Again and again, we see the contrast between those who have the strength to conquer evil and those who cannot survive their own weaknesses. In an eerie echo of Trask family history, Adam's brother Charles has died and left an inheritance of more than $100,000 to Adam and, strangely, to Cathy. The manipulative Cal eavesdrops on Adam and Lee discussing Cathy and the fortune—and his worst horrors are confirmed. His mother is not dead—she is a whore in Salinas. Cal's very "blood," he dreads, is tainted.

Is Cal truly Cain? Is he predisposed to evil, or can he "choose" another path? In Cal, the truest battle of the soul will be waged.

Cathy is maliciously suspicious of Adam's motives when he tells her of her inheritance. For the first time, though, Adam feels Cathy is afraid of him. "'You know about the ugliness in people,'" Adam tells her. "'You use all the sad, weak parts of a man, ... and you're sure—that's all there is. I seem to know there's a part of you missing. ... You are only a part of a human.'"

Unlike Cathy, Adam is not destroyed by his weaknesses. In their final confrontation, Adam's journey is completed—he has faced the truth, evil and weakness in himself and others—and has come out whole in his humanity. "Did you feel the rebirth in him? Were you aware of it?" Steinbeck asks in his letters. "Men do change, do learn, do grow."
Struggling to face the truth in our selves. Moving forward with that knowledge. Reconciling pain and joy, weakness and strength, reality and dreams. I believe that is the key to growth, to wholeness, to life, just as it is the key to East of Eden. What more will we share as we turn to the final section?

Keep reading, and we'll talk about Part Four next week!

— Oprah

Footnote: * Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, page 124.

Photo Credit: Painting of John Steinbeck courtesy of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San José State University

The Wounds Time Can't Heal
She's so bad and he's so innocent...does the story of Cain and Abel intertwine with Adam and Eve in the relationship between Cathy and Adam Trask? What is Charles' motive for leaving Cathy half of his inheritance? Who was Dessie's one true love? Our literary guide, Margo Jefferson, had her work cut out for her!

Read the Q&A now.

A Story Steinbeck Wrote for You
Although it's true Steinbeck wrote East of Eden for his sons, Steinbeck wanted the issues of family and place—so intimately his own—to be achingly true for others. Take a closer look at how Steinbeck captivated his readers.

Get the new article from Professor Susan Shillinglaw

Host Your Own Book Club!
It's never too late to get a group of friends together for a Book Club! We've got great ideas on how to invite people, where you should meet and how to make it fun! Hint: Serving foods reminiscent of the Salinas Valley are a great way to get conversation flowing. Why not serve a crisp salad in honor of Adam Trask's lettuce venture?

Find more helpful hints for the host
  • In Part Three, six characters die or their deaths are described. How does the omnipresence of death change the mood and atmosphere of the novel? Get discussion questions for your next book club meeting.
  • Wherever you live, whatever time it is, log on and connect with readers everywhere online! Join a worldwide discussion.
  • The e-mails and pictures are rolling in! Check to see if your book club is featured and get to know others who love to read together!
Hello Book Club readers,

We're coming to the final chapters of this vast story. Isn't it hard to think of leaving Salinas Valley? Well, fear not—there is much to come before our journey ends!

In the beginning of Part Four, Steinbeck, as narrator, reiterates his deepest beliefs and perhaps the reason for the novel itself: "I believe there is only one story in the world, and only one. ... Humans are caught...in a net of good and evil. ... There is no other story. ... [W]hen a man dies...the question is still there: Was his life good or was it evil? ... Was he loved or was he hated? ... Is his death felt as a loss or does a kind of joy come of it?" *

But don't let Steinbeck's reflections lead you to believe that East of Eden is winding down in its final chapters! Steinbeck shapes a whole new generation of characters and action in Part Four, to signify his key themes even more powerfully.

It's intriguing to me to look into the mind of the author as he was creating. In Journal of a Novel, The East of Eden Letters, Steinbeck wrote with clarity and purpose—and yet was curious himself about where the novel would go. He wrote:

"The final section...amounts to a whole novel in subject matter. ... So—now—we are about ready to go. We have a new kind of a world in the Salinas Valley, and our timeless principles must face a new set of facts and react to them. Are you interested to see what happens? I am." ** Fascinating. Often, the creative process is a mystery, even to the creator!

What does happen in this week's chapters is again filled with intrigue, drama, secrets and scandal. Lee helps the Trasks move to Salinas, where the boys will become young men and live out their destinies of darkness and light, while Cathy's evil continues to haunt them. And Adam, as he re-enters the world of the living, embarks on a forward thinking business idea that leads him to spectacular failure.

In 7th grade, Cal is clever, manipulative, dark and feared, while Aron is shy, delicate and beloved. Even at this young age, Aron and Abra speak of marriage. In a heart-wrenching moment, Aron asks Abra to pretend she is the mother he never had. Abra divulges that, according to her parents, Cathy is alive. Aron is devastated, and closes his mind to the idea completely. As he grows, Aron escapes into a world of religion, and declares himself celibate. His goodness cannot face this world.
Growing into his own very different young manhood, Cal has taken to wandering Salinas at night. In a haphazard late-night encounter, a drunk invites Cal to Kate's whorehouse and blurts out the truth: "She's Adam Trask's wife, mother of them damned twins. ... Well, she was no good as a wife but she's sure as hell a good whore."

Cal goes to Lee to deal with this new revelation, and again the shadows between good and evil are drawn. Of Cathy, Lee says, "There is something she lacks. Kindness maybe, or conscience. ... She was full of hatred, but why or toward what I don't know. It's a mystery. And her hatred ... was heartless." Adam, on the other hand, says Lee, "has in him, magnified, the things his wife lacks. I think in him kindness and conscience are so large that they are almost faults." *** In Cal, Lee foresees, there will be both the mother and father, evil and good, hatred and love—depending on the choices he makes.

Lee's words loom large, for Cal, as for each of us: "It's too easy to excuse yourself because of your ancestry. ... Look at me closely so you will remember. Whatever you do, it will be you who do it..."

Whatever you do, it will be you.

We'll see where that leads Cal, Aron, Cathy, Adam and East of Eden next week!

— Oprah

Footnote: * Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, page 124.

Photo Credit: Painting of John Steinbeck courtesy of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San José State University
Hello Book Club readers,

We're heading into the home stretch: Cal confronts his mother, Cathy, face-to-face; Aron leaves for Stanford; Abra moves into a much more significant role; Lee's wisdom continues to be the guiding light of the book as the nation slides into war and we enter the final years of the Trask and Hamilton family sagas this week.

Of this phase of the novel Steinbeck wrote in Journal of a Novel, "Our timeless principles must face a new set of facts and react to them." *

As Salinas is swept with a wave of morality and reform, Cal, Aron, Abra and even Adam are evolving into their truest selves. In every sense, the tapestry of good and evil is even more intricately woven in this week's chapters.

Cal is continually drawn to the whorehouse he has learned is his mother's. He stalks her for weeks until she suddenly confronts him. Cal reveals that he is Cathy's son, and again the clash between good and evil unfolds. Faced with Cathy's cruelty, Cal protects Adam and Aron. Enraged by Cal's love and loyalty, Cathy attempts to manipulate Cal, insinuating that he is like her. In this moment, the power of timshel is crystallized. We hear Lee's wisdom echoing, as Cal answers her, "I'm my own. I don't have to be you. I don't hate you, but I'm glad you're afraid." ** It is truly the beginning of the end for Cathy...

...And a new beginning for Cal. He is literally becoming "his brother's keeper," convincing Aron to finish high school early and go to college to stay out of the war. Devising a business plan to export beans, a high commodity in the wartime economy, Cal plans to restore Adam's lost fortune and pay for Aron to attend college; yet Trask family history repeats itself. Adam seems to care little for Cal's efforts, and wants only to reward Aron for his hard work in school. Ironically, Aron (much like the younger Adam himself) wants no part of his father's world. He says, "I want to go away. It's a dirty town. ... I don't belong here."

Aron leaves for Stanford—and even as he writes Abra love letters—he plans to become a clergyman. His simple goodness, his need to withdraw from the real complexities of life, comes into sharp contrast to his brother and his beloved Abra. While Cal and Abra are learning to live with the truth of evil and ambiguity, Aron must be shielded. Abra, who Steinbeck considered "terribly important," admits to Lee that she cannot be as good as Aron imagines her. "He doesn't know me," she tells Lee. "He doesn't even want to know me. He wants that—white—ghost."
Watch how Cal and Abra evolve in the coming chapters. Each is a portrait of someone for whom full knowledge—and choice, timshel—are the path to wholeness. Their struggles are the true and vital struggles in each of us, and in East of Eden.

Summer is waning, and we are coming to the close of this novel...but there is still so much to discuss! Keep reading—and let me know what you think!

— Oprah 

* Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, page 146.
** East of Eden, page 462.
East of Eden, page 489.
East of Eden, page 493.
To all my reading friends,

This week is huge! So many pivotal plotlines come crashing to a climax in these chapters! Even as East of Eden moves into its final pages, it still overflows with new twists, more intrigue, hidden struggles and crucial conflicts!

The people who seem to have no choice about their own good and evil are beginning to splinter, while the hearts that harbor both good and evil—and strive to choose—continue to struggle and evolve. The battle of the soul rages on...and our characters' destinies are sealed, in this week's reading.

War has engulfed the world, and the people of Salinas are in a patriotic fervor that is yet another mirror of the duality of good and evil in man's soul. While some march in drills, roll bandages, enlist, and bravely deal with "the helpless, the hopeless sorrow, that comes down over a family with the telegram," others use every cruelty they can think of to hate. (East of Eden, p. 516) Eventually, they destroy their own neighbor, Mr. Fenchel, a Salinas tailor, simply because he had a German accent.

Adam Trask is appointed to the draft board, where he feels grim guilt for passing boys into service. It's sad, ironic, and true to Adam's core that "because he knew he was weak, he grew more and more stern and painstaking and much less likely to accept an excuse or a borderline disability." (p.517) He agonizes, "It's when there's a choice, and it's my own judgment of the merits, that's when it gets me." (p. 518) Once again, as Lee points out to Adam, timshel—choice—is a responsibility, a burden, even as it can set a man free. "That's lonely," says Adam. "All great and precious things are lonely," teaches Lee.

Photo Credit: Olive Hamilton before her flight in a biplane courtesy of Stanford University Libraries Department of Special Collections & University Archives Footnotes:

As Aron returns home for Thanksgiving, the Cain and Abel saga plays out once again—in devastating depth. Aron feels oppressed and overwhelmed by Adam's love and ambition for him. Conversely, Cal, who has his heart set on impressing Adam with a $15,000 gift from his export business, cannot get a moment's notice from his father. "Without effort, Aron was taking his day away." (p. 535)

Like Cain, Cal's heart rages. He is overcome. "I'm trying to buy him. There's not one decent thing about it...about me. ... I know why my father loves Aron. It's because he looks like her. ... That makes me jealous of her, too." (p. 536)

Cal gives Adam his hard earned gift, only to have Adam callously reject it. Blindly ignorant of either boy's truth, Adams says, "I don't want the money, Cal. ... I would have been so happy if you could have given me—well, what your brother has—pride in the thing he's doing." (p. 541)

Again like Cain, Cal is devastated, and the battle within him rages to a fury. Willfully, he gains his composure and recovers—but his heart is still roiling. He leaves the house. Aron follows him, and in a gesture of pure pain and evil heartache, Cal takes him to face the evil truth—at the brothel owned by their mother.

At dawn the next day, unbeknownst to anyone, Aron enlists in the U.S. Army.
Meanwhile, Kate's pure evil—her fears, lies and plots are debilitating her, physically and emotionally. Her horribly twisted, arthritic hands are a remarkable symbol of her "malformed soul"—and they are crippling her more and more. She hires Joe Valery, an ex-con who is every bit as hateful and manipulative as she is, as her hatchet man. They scheme, maneuver and lie to one another, and their pure evil will lead Kate toward her final undoing.

However, it is Aron's face—"hurt, bewildered, despairing"—that pushes Kate over the edge. "She saw the face of the blond and beautiful boy, his eyes mad with shock. She heard his ugly words aimed not so much at her as at himself." (p. 545) Recognizing her own absolute evil in the face of Aron's "untouched and untouchable" beauty, Kate becomes a "sick ghost, crooked and in some way horrible," who has no way out. (p. 550) She signs a will leaving everything she has to Aron, drinks morphine...and "disappears."

Who will survive? What will they have learned? How will they go forward? What lives will they create for themselves? There's only one more week of reading in which to find those answers!

— Oprah

New! When Fact Meets Fiction
It's true: Although she was scared of flying, Steinbeck's mother Olive did ride on a biplane once. In East of Eden, Steinbeck fondly relays his memory of her misunderstood heroics aboard the little plane. But to what extent did he embellish or hold back when telling other Hamilton family stories?

Read Professor Susan Shillinglaw's new article.

Your Questions...Answered!
This week you asked our literary guide Margo Jefferson: Are Lee and Abra spiritually father and daughter, or do they represent mother and daughter instead? In which character's voice did Steinbeck put his personal views of war and violence? And why does Kate give Aron her entire estate?

Get the answers the these questions and more!
Hello, my East of Eden companions!

It's bittersweet, is it not, to come to the end of this vivid powerful saga? I still feel Cal and Abra, Adam and Cathy in my bones! I'd love to drink tea and talk with Lee and Sam Hamilton. Couldn't you just turn to page one, start over and absorb each word, each character, each generation again?

Before he started writing the novel, Steinbeck wrote, "I will tell [my sons] one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest story of all—the story of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of love and hate, of beauty and ugliness. I shall try to demonstrate to them how these doubles are inseparable—how neither can exist without the other and how out of their grouping creativeness is born."

Thank you for taking this grand journey through the Salinas Valley with me. I hope it was all you wanted a book to be.

It's so fitting, as the book ends, that Cathy—pure evil—kills herself; and that Aron—pure good—runs away from his demons and pain, enlists in the Army to escape the demons he can't face—and is killed. Adam, who has never been totally able to face the truth, seems to finally embrace the darkness and light...the beauty of the struggle...in the moment of his death. On his deathbed, Adam recognizes the truth. In his last word—timshel—he gives Cal the greatest gift he could offer: the belief that Cal has the strength to face the truth and choose wisely in his life.

In the end, only Abra, Lee and Cal—those who journey through the dense woods of good and evil and make choices based on truth—survive.

Abra. As a young girl, she is at first won over by the nearly perfect Aron. But as she grows and matures, as she seeks a real life for herself, Abra's wise heart sees that Aron's purity and beauty is not whole. She falls in love and chooses to build a life with Cal who struggles with his demons, his choices and his truths.

Lee. Ever our wise guide, he sees the truth in each heart—in the sweep of generations—and in the words of the Creator.

And Cal. The soul of East of Eden. In Cal, we feel the constant struggle between good and evil. As Lee explains to Abra, "He is crammed full to the top with every good thing and every bad thing." (East of Eden, page 583.) We live with him through his pain, his battles, his guilt, and ultimately his triumph—his realization of the mythic importance of timshel, thou mayest.
Cal is in each of us. The pain of the past...the "destiny" that sometimes haunts us...the desire and the dream to create the best life possible. And the fear that we cannot, somehow, build the life we dream of. For each of us, as it is so true for Cal, it is only by fighting the battles of the heart, by risking love and facing truth—by timshel, choice—that we create the life each of us was meant to lead.

So good. So true. Steinbeck said, "It is the only book I have ever written." To me, it may just be the only book he ever needed to write!

I look forward to journeying beyond the pages of East of Eden—and to the heart of Steinbeck Country—as we take the Book Club on the road! I'll be writing with exciting news about our upcoming Book Club show soon!

— Oprah

Photo Credit: Steinbeck Country: Exploring the Settings for the Stories by David A. Laws

Tour Steinbeck Country with Oprah
Stay tuned for the first Book Club show of the new season—we're going the heart of the novel! Until then, learn more about Steinbeck's love affair with Salinas Valley.

Explore some of the other Steinbeck novels set in California.
That's right! Set your TiVos and VCRs and tune in this Monday!

We're on the road to Salinas Valley, California—the very heart of "Steinbeck Country"—and a book club discussion you won't want to miss!

Hold on to your seats—you'll meet Steinbeck's son, Thom—all grown up and the spitting image of his father. It's a star-studded hour when Fraiser's Kelsey Grammer and Jane Seymour stop by!

Surprises...hoopla...and the BIG announcement—our next book!

Don't get left behind!

Photo Credit: Steinbeck Country: Exploring the Settings for the Stories by David A. Laws

A New Side of Cathy
Jane Seymour brought Cathy to life in the television mini-series East of Eden. On Monday, she'll share what the role meant to her—in the meantime, see how Cathy tipped the balance between good and evil in the novel.

Read the article now!

The Valley that Shaped a Man
Although it's true Steinbeck wrote East of Eden for his sons, Steinbeck wanted everyone to feel a personal connection—so he told stories of the towns and people of Salinas Valley—including those of his own family.

Discover the man behind East of Eden.


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