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East of Eden by John Steinbeck: The Ending Sucks!!!

October 16, 2020

I’d recommend East of Eden by John Steinbeck.  I liked it.  That’s my book review.  I liked it.  But the ending sucked.

I finished reading East of Eden a couple months ago and immediately thought that the ending sucked, but I didn’t want to say anything about it right away.  I wanted to think about it a little bit.  After all, it’s a famous John Steinbeck novel.  I want to treat it with respect.

When I read the first page of a current best selling novel and can tell it sucks, I know that I don’t need to wait.  I don’t even have to explain why I don’t need to wait.  In fact, I can proclaim that a recent bestseller sucks without reading it.  Do you know all those new books that just came out this month?  Yeah, most of them suck.  Oh yeah, those award-winning novels probably suck too.

I’m not being bitter or cynical.  I’m saving you precious time.

At any rate, the end of East of Eden sucks for a couple reasons.

1.  It was predictable.

Maybe East of Eden wasn’t predictable in the 1920s.  Maybe plot twists (I won’t reveal what they are) were new in the 1920s.  It’s not John Steinbeck’s faulty that shocking plot twists in 1920 are predictable in 2020.

2.  It felt rushed.

Most of East of Eden moved deliberately.  The descriptions were plentiful without being out of control.  And then the last 50 pages, it was event, event, and then event.  The descriptions were gone.  Maybe John Steinbeck got tired of being deliberate.  Maybe Steinbeck had a deadline to meet.  Maybe he thought of a new idea for a novel.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d still recommend East of Eden.  The book itself doesn’t suck.  Maybe the ending is better than I think it is.  I just don’t think the ending holds up with the remainder of the novel.


What do you think?  Did the ending of East of Eden suck, or am I overstating it?  What other great novels have endings that suck?

  1. Marilyn Kriete permalink

    I’ve been reading East of Eden over the past month and am getting close to the last 50 pages. Thanks for the heads up! I’m sensing a speedy wrap-up and you confirmed it. Last time I read it was 50 years ago (in my early teens) so I don’t remember much of it. But I think I was much more impressed the first time around!

    • “Last time I read it was 50 years ago (in my early teens) so I don’t remember much of it. But I think I was much more impressed the first time around!”-

      Yeah, there was a lot of stuff I was impressed with in my teens. Now? Maybe not as much.

  2. I’ll have to take your word for it. I once tried to read Grapes of Wrath for book club. What a slog that was – I couldn’t even finish it. Although I liked reading Of Mice and Men in high school, you won’t find me attempting any more Steinbeck novels.

    • Haha! If it matters to you at all (I’m not trying to convince you to read another Steinbeck book), I didn’t think East of Eden was a slog. It just had a rushed, predictable ending.

  3. Maverick040759 permalink

    Agreed. Felt like he woke up one day and said, “I’m tired of writing this book, the end.” Similsr to Crichtons “Sphere.” Both books roll along good, then nothing.

    • You’re right that a lot of books have great build ups but lousy endings. I wonder how much of it is the authors getting tired of writing the same book for a long time.

      Or maybe it’s the deadlines. Are the authors even aware that the endings are letdowns?

  4. Julian Sullivan permalink

    I couldn’t agree more – I finished it a couple of weeks ago and have been thinking the same.. Apart from what you’ve mentioned above I really struggled with what I consider to be a dumbing down at the end of otherwise strong characters – the scene where Abra and Lee tell each other ‘I love you’ and, again, where Abra confesses the same to Cal feel cheap, rushed and a bit insincere. I also struggled with Lee’s apparent transformation from being cool-headed, reflective and wise (which I liked) to being a bit of a corny people-pleaser (which I didn’t). And the last few pages with the scene around Adams sick-bed and the slapstick nurse (why, oh why introduce a character like THAT right at the end of a novel?!) were a little bizzare to be honest.
    That aside though this is a stonking good read which, yes, does dip a little around the middle but manages to hot up again before curtain call, there’s some powerful storytelling in there and if I were to choose a scene that really stuck with me it would be the encounter between Cathy and Charles where they basically psyche each other out before she ends up luring him into bed – a masterclass in tension..
    If you want to experience a great ending amongst Steinbecks other works look no further than The Grapes of Wrath – a far superior close to a novel in my opinion!

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