Publication Year: (originally 1952)
Publisher: Penguin (2002) (Recorded Books - audio)
Edition: trade softcover and audio book
my copy and Library audio book
(mostly Salinas Valley, California)
Date Completed: 1/20/2012
yes - a must read!
It's always difficult for me to write a review about a book I absolutely loved. I can't believe I waited this long to read this epic masterpiece. The writing is beautiful, the story and characters memorable; it's one of those stories you will never forget, but you will want to reread even though you know what will happen.
--just one of my favorite passages---
"In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world".
We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never ending contests in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is."
The book is 600 pages and the audio book was read by Richard Poe, a favorite reader. I loved the audio, but needed to reread sections, just because the writing was so wonderful. The story is somewhat autobiographical and it also reminds the reader of the biblical story of Cain and Abel from the Book of Genesis. It is a story which spans a period covering the Civil War and World War 1, but yet, it is not a story about our country at war.
It's a story of three generations and two families. The family of Samuel and Liza Hamilton, Irish immigrants. Samuel was a wise and loving man, and a wonderful husband and father to nine children. The other family is Cyrus and Alice Trask, and their two sons Charles and Adam. Cyrus is a tough on his boys as well as his wife.
Adam and Charles Trask are brothers with personalities as different as day and night, from an early age they vie for their father's love and approval. Adam is gentle, Charles is mean. After their mother passes away and later their powerful father, Cyrus, the brothers are left a large sum of money. Adam marries a woman named Cathy, who he knows very little about. Not only is she conniving, she has a sordid past and is pure evil. She's a woman who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants. Shortly after they move away to Salinas Valley, California, Cathy gives birth to twin sons, who she wants nothing to do with. Not only doesn't she want to be a mother, she has no interest in being a wife either. She does what she must to escape her situation.
Lee, is a Chinese cook and servant for the Trasks who basically raises the young boys, after Cathy leaves. Adam is devastated after his wife has left and unable to deal with the young twins. It is only after she is gone that the twins are even given names after Lee insists on it. They are named Caleb (Cal) and Aron, after Cain and Abel.
Lee was an amazing character, a gentle and smart man who shares his bits of wisdom though out the story. The boys, like their father and his brother Charles, are opposites, and each compete for their father's love and affection as well. As the boys grow up Cal learn bits and pieces about the mother they knew. Eventually they meet her, and one son fears he shares some of his mother's evil traits.
While the first half of the book tells mostly the story of the Hamilton's, Cyrus and Alice Trask and their son's Charles and Adam. The second half's focus is on the sons of Adam and Cathy, Caleb (Cal) and Abel.
The entire story held my interest, and the 600 pages and numerous audio discs came to an end all too quickly. I want to read it again already. So happy I read this book -- you must move it up on your TBR list--you'll be glad that you did. This is sure to be a new top 5 books of all time.