If Oprah Winfrey was looking to get the American public (and perhaps even the world) interested in reading "classic" literature she could have not chosen a better selection than John Steinbeck's "East of Eden." This is certainly not the "tamer" Steinbeck that I read in high school English class. While we may not even think twice about it today, "Eden" must have been simply scandalous when it was originally published in 1952 with murder, prostitution, and adultery just some of the more "adult" issues explored in this epic novel.
Despite its intimidating length, "East" moves along quickly as we follow the life of Adam Trask - from his East Coast childhood and troubled relationship with his brother to businessman and father of two sons with equally complex relations of their own. As the title suggests, the book is a modern retelling of the biblical story of Cain and Abel story. As with most of the "classics," the novel is rife with topics and themes to deeply delve into and discuss with your book club. My only criticisms are that the "good vs. evil" angle gets a bit heavy-handed at times and, for me, the novel loses some steam in the final quarter - but these are certainly not enough to not heartily recommend the work.
The nice thing about "Eden" is if you choose not to take the "literary" route, you can still be simply entertained and enthralled by Steinbeck's plot and characters. There is enough suspense and intrigue that make it not terribly different from many of today's bestsellers.