Thursday, January 21, 2016

#ThrowbackThursday - East of Eden

Hello, friends! So, I've been busy blogging, and reading, and working, and running, and blogging, and reading, see where this is going? This incarnation of Project 84 seems to be much more central in my life than any of my past attempts, which is why, I think, it has been more successful so far! I'm reading two great books, almost finished with my 5th, and I'm excited to fill you guys in on what I've been reading.

But today is Thursday, and we all know what that means! For this #ThrowbackThursday, I want to take you back to 2003. George W. Bush is president, 50 Cent is tearing up the charts, and the world is anxiously awaiting the release of the third Lord of the Rings Movie. I am 16-years-old, sitting in a trailer as our high school gets renovated, and Mr. Sinclair hands out our latest reading assignment: East of Eden.

When I was 16-years-old, I was not much a fan of John Steinbeck. I’m still not, if I’m being completely honest. I was forced to read The Grapes of Wrath the summer before 10th grade, and despite my mother’s insistence that it was one of the most meaningful books ever written, I struggled my way to the final page.

I wasn’t excited to be reading East of Eden. As much as I enjoyed my English classes, I had learned early that if I wanted to get any true, fulfilling reading done, it was going to have to be done outside the classroom. I much preferred the “suggested reading” list than the “required reading” list, though I knew it had to be done.

So I cracked open East of Eden and prepared myself for boredom. Like most 16-year-olds, I had become an expert at completing boring schoolwork, so I knew I could get it done.

Surprising plot twist: I loved this book.

And I wasn’t the only one. I have strong memories of sitting in the trailer with my friend Webhov, gushing over how much we were enjoying this book. We started jokingly referring to each other as character names (I was really cool in high school ;) ), and guessing where the plot would go. When we finally finished, I think we spent a half hour just dissecting the ending of the book.

If you weren’t assigned this book in high school, the plot is simple. It’s the story of Cain and Abel…sort of. It’s really the story of Adam, who is growing old in Salinas, California. We flashback to his childhood in Connecticut, where he, along with his brother, meets the alluring Cathy. Adam and Cathy fall in love, get married, and move to California as Cathy is pregnant with twins (fathered either by Adam or his brother).

With no interest in being a mother, Cathy leaves the twins – Cal and Aron (or Cain and Abel) – with Adam, and enters a life of prostitution. The boys grow up never knowing their mother.

If you’ve read the Bible, you know the basics of where it goes from there. If you haven’t, I won’t ruin it for you.

I can’t quite explain why I love this book so much, but I do think it was the beginning of my love affair with deeply flawed characters. See, I loved Cathy. Seriously. I thought she was the most fascinating, damaged character I’ve ever read. I would talk about her with Webhov, or in the class. I would try to break her down in papers and in my diary (seriously). I think she reminded me of another Cathy I could never quite get out of my head – Cathy Earnshaw (stay tuned for Wuthering Heights in April for #ThrowbackThursday).

To this day, my favorite books are those with deeply flawed protagonists. It’s what I attribute my Bret Easton Ellis obsession to (or, rather, what I blame it on), and why I’ve never quite been able to get into a truly romantic book. I like my characters with dark pasts…or dark presents. I like them with so many problems that if I met them in real life I would be visceraly opposed to going somewhere private with them.

And I think it all stems from my two Cathys.

If you haven’t read East of Eden, I recommend it. Even if you didn’t like other Steinbeck books, this one is different. The characters are more interesting, the dialogue easier to read, and the story unfolds in a unique way.

Pick it up, give it a try. Or stay tuned for my next #ThrowbackThursday.

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