Categories: Biography & Autobiography
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As the son of a celebrated literary icon, John Steinbeck IV grew up in a privileged world peopled by the literati and the intellectual elite. Sadly, it was also a world of alcoholism, bitter divorce, estrangement, and abuse, on the part of both his mother and father. In this fascinating memoir, the late son and namesake of John Steinbeck writes with great insight and a gift for lyrical expression, trying to make sense of an often painful youth. Left unfinished at his untimely death, this testament to his life is here reconstructed by his wife of twelve years. Interweaving her own reminiscences of her life with John Steinbeck IV, Nancy Sommer Steinbeck has created an engrossing account from two perspectives: her husband's memories of his chaotic upbringing and her own thoughts on their journey together to make a new life apart from the long shadow of a famous father and a troubled past.
Though laboring under the burden of being the son of a 20th-century legend, the younger Steinbeck established himself as a respected journalist in his own right, mainly through his writing on wartime Vietnam, which had a profound impact on his life. The Other Side of Eden contains many thoughts on Vietnam, including a memorable scene of his father's visit to the war-torn country while the younger Steinbeck was in the army. There are also vivid recollections of his mother's abusive, alcoholic rages; his lonely years in boarding school; his battle with drug addiction; his strained relationship with his remote, conflicted father; and the connection of East of Eden to Steinbeck's real-life family. Nancy Sommer Steinbeck adds important perspective as an outsider getting to know this complex family throughher husband, and in the end helping him to put his life on a sound footing.
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