Sometimes you just want a big heavy epic about big modern (modern as in 20th Century) American ideas like free will, inheritance, jealousy, redemption, and birthright. But not so big and heavy that it doesn't have romance, prostitution, gambling, brawling, sibling rivalry, and murdering. For a classic, this is a very likeable book. Because Steinbeck is so good, you could read through it just for the plot alone and enjoy it just fine.
I did finish the book wishing that Kathy had been more human and less mindlessly sociopathic. Unlike the men, the women in this book do not grapple with the question of good versus evil, they <i>are</i> the good (Abra) or the evil (Kathy). I was a little disappointed that the women weren't also thinkers, especially since Kathy's story should have given her so much moral material to wrestle with. It struck me as a missed opportunity, but that probably says more about my tastes than it does about Steinbeck, who was clearly intersted in male emotional dynamics and not the female ones here. And honestly I was so caught up in the muscular emotions of the four men in the novel that I hardly cared. Kathy could have been an actual snake with legs and it wouldn't have bothered me.