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

©1999
Physical Description:
279 pages : map ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.7 14.0 30511.
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780151002290
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

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

Widower Ben Givens, a retired heart surgeon, has colon cancer. He plans one last hunting trip to the beloved Washington State orchard country of his boyhood, just him and his dogsÄat the end of which he plans to kill himself. After all, he's a man who understands "the mortality of human beings." That's the tear-jerking setup of Guterson's follow-up to Snow Falling on Cedars, his acclaimed debut novel (and a big hit on audio). As Givens's simple plan goes unexpectedly awryÄhe crashes his car on a mountain roadÄhe is led on an amazing soul-affirming odyssey. He is rescued by a beautiful young couple in their VW bus who ask nothing of him but his respect. Next, a journeyman hobo gives him marijuana to ease his cancer pain (and, as it turns out, expand his spiritual consciousness). Alone in the woods at last, he has a life-and-death showdown with a rogue landowner. Finally, his emergency doctoring skills are called on by Mexican migrant workers. The story, with its crisp action, works well on audio, coming across foremost as an adventure. Veteran narrator Herrmann plays up the sage qualities of his hero without milking the easy pathos of the situation too heavily. Simultaneous release with the Harcourt Brace hardcover. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Mourning his wife's recent passing and facing his rapidly progressing colon cancer, retired surgeon Ben Givens decides on suicide rather than lengthy suffering for himself and his remaining family. After mapping out his demise in a shooting "accident," Ben drives into the mountains of Washington State for a final bird hunt with his Brittany spaniels. Almost immediately his meticulous plans are disrupted. A car accident propels Ben into unexpected physical and emotional terrain, where his subsequent adventures force him to reexamine his convictions about mortality, morality, and identity. Ben's odyssey is told in the controlled yet passionate prose that characterized Guterson's first novel, the acclaimed Snow Falling on Cedars (LJ 8/94). Guterson draws compelling characters and creates a haunting sense of place and of humankind's paradoxical relationship with the natural world; a passage describing a desperate encounter with a pack of Irish wolfhounds compares favorably with the best of Hemingway. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/98.]‘Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.