Cover image for East of the mountains
East of the mountains
Guterson, David.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harcourt Brace & Co., [1999]

Physical Description:
279 pages : map ; 24 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.7 14.0 30511.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Boston Free Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Clarence Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Elma Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Grand Island Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Hamburg Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Lake Shore Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Williamsville Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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It is mid-October, 1997, harvest time in the Columbia Basin of central Washington state, a rich apple- and pear-growing region. Ben Givens, recently widowed, is a retired heart surgeon, once admired for his steadiness of hand, his precision, his endurance. He has terminal colon cancer. While Ben does not readily accept defeat, he is determined to avoid suffering rather than engage it. And so, accompanied by his two hunting dogs, he sets out through the mythic American West-sage deserts, yawning canyons, dusty ranches, vast orchards-on his last hunt. The main issues for Ben as a doctor had been tactical and so it would be with his death. But he hadn't considered the persuasiveness of memory-the promise he made to his wife Rachel, the love of his life, during World War II. Or life's mystery. On his journey he meets a young couple who are "forever," a drifter offering left-handed advice that might lessen the pain, a veterinarian with a touch only a heart surgeon would recognize, a rancher bent on destruction, a migrant worker who tests Ben's ability to understand. And just when he thinks there is no turning back, nothing to lose that wasn't lost, his power of intervention is called upon and his very identity tested. Full of humanity, passion, and moral honesty, East of the Mountains is a bold and beautiful novel of personal discovery.

Author Notes

David Guterson was born in Seattle and later graduated from the University of Washington. Before becoming a full-time writer, Guterson was a high school English teacher and a contributing editor for Harper's Magazine.

Guterson has published The Country Ahead of Us, The Country Behind, a collection of short stories, and Family Matters: Why Home Schooling Makes Sense, a nonfiction book. Snow Falling on Cedars is Guterson's most famous work; it has won the Pen/Faulkner Award and was an American Booksellers Book of the Year Nominee.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Dr. Ben Givens, retired heart surgeon, is dying. With his beloved wife already dead and the cancer in his colon--a carefully kept secret--growing intolerably painful, he decides on a suicide that will spare his family the burden and himself the suffering of a lingering death. He will go bird hunting with his dogs, traveling from his adult home in Seattle to the Eastern Washington sageland of his youth, and there stage a fatal accident. Though the plan seems simple and straightforward, its execution is delayed, detoured, and finally undermined by encounters that cast his thoughts back to his boyhood, his courtship of his wife, and his experiences in World War II, and by emergencies that force him to act in the present. Life intervenes. It intervenes most tellingly in a migrant worker's trailer at the farthest point in his journey, where Givens must perform a harrowing delivery, resurrecting skills learned decades ago and never practiced. Leaving the trailer at first light, he is struck by the change wrought in the last few hours. "Things looked different now," he realizes, and he returns home not to fight his cancer, but to endure it and to accept his death. It is an acceptance that seems fully earned because Guterson has traced its unsteady progress with extraordinary honesty, skill, and understanding. The author's second novel makes good on the promise of his first, the extravagantly successful Snow Falling on Cedars (1994). Readers who put that book near the top of the best-seller lists will clamor for this one, and they should not be disappointed. With the same general concerns of love, war, and death and the same searching examination of the relationship between past and present, it is leaner, more direct, and altogether more compelling. --Dennis Dodge

Publisher's Weekly Review

A good and decent man's passage through life as reflected in his memories and his experiences on what he intends to be his last day on earth is the burden of Guterson's (Snow Falling on Cedars) deeply felt, honest and quietly powerful new novel. Dr. Ben Givens, a 73-year-old retired thoracic surgeon in Seattle, has terminal colon cancer, a fact that he has kept from his daughter and grandson. Widowed recently after a loving marriage, he decides to forgo the ordeal of dying in stages, and instead to commit suicide in what will look like an accident during a day of quail hunting in the apple-growing country where he was born. But fate interferes with Ben's plan. His van is wrecked when he runs off a slick road, and he is rescued in the first of several encounters that turn into a two-day ordeal. During the cold October night in the sagebrush desert, the narrative rises to a harrowing crescendo when Ben's two dogs are the victims of a marauding pack of Irish wolfhounds. With subtle symmetry, Guterson uses Ben's darkly picaresque misadventure to provide graceful segues into the events of his past. A series of poignant memories occur in flashback‘Ben's mother's death; his tender courting of Rachel, who became his wife; his soul-lacerating experiences in combat in WWII and his life-defining epiphany at an army field hospital in Italy‘which chart the growth of a man with a strong sense of humanity and responsibility and a steadfast work ethic. The novel begins slowly, and at first one fears that Guterson's attempt to establish a sense of place will result in a dense recital of geographical names. But his unsparingly direct, beautifully observed and meticulously detailed prose creates an almost palpable atmospheric background. At the end of his journey, Ben achieves an understanding about the meaning of life and the continuity of commitment. Wise and compassionate about the human predicament, Guterson's second novel confirms his talent as a writer who delves into life's moral complexities to arrive at existential truths. Agent, Georges Borchardt. 500,000 first printing; $500,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild main selection; author tour; rights sold to U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Holland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark; simultaneous release by BDD audio. (Apr.) FYI: Universal Pictures will release the film of Snow Falling on Cedars in fall 1999. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

After Snow Falling on Cedars, the story of a terminally ill doctor on a quest through the American West. A Literary Guild main selection. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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