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East of the Mountains by David Guterson
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East of the Mountains (original 1999; edition 2000)

by David Guterson

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1,882266,771 (3.47)47
A retired heart surgeon, recently widowed, does not wish to confront his terminal colon cancer. He decides to go on a last hunt in his home state of Washington.
Member:jsk85
Title:East of the Mountains
Authors:David Guterson
Info:Harvest Books (2000), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
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East of the Mountains by David Guterson (1999)

  1. 00
    The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (silva_44)
    silva_44: This book reminds me of much of Barbara Kingsolver's fiction, in that it focuses, in part, on the plight of illegal immigrants, or other politically charged topics.
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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
[East of The Mountains] - David Guterson
5+★

It’s about a dying man’s final journey through a landscape that has always sustained him and provided him with hope and challenges. When he discovers that he has terminal cancer, retired heart surgeon Ben Givens refuses to simply sit back and wait. Instead he takes his two beloved dogs and goes on a last hunt, determined to end his life on his own terms. But as the people he meets and the memories over which he lingers remind him of the mystery of life’s endurance, his trek into the American West becomes much more than a final journey.

I first read this author’s [Snow Falling on Cedars] and really, really enjoyed it....so I looked forward to reading this one and I was in no way disappointed. He knows how to tell a story and make the reader feel the joy or the pain of his characters. As with all books there may be some sections that some readers will want to skim through I skipped through a lot of Ben’s service record in WWII…but it certainly took nothing away from the journey that Ben decided to make, and that is really what the story is about. Ben is almost dead when he and his dogs start the journey back to the east side of the mountains. He knows he’s more than likely not coming back… he expects to die…but he will do it on his own terms…just the way he has lived his life. Ben asks the question that the book poses throughout…”When all that has given joy and meaning to life has ebbed through death and change in our final years, what is the point of living?” It's thought provoking. Sometimes comforting and sometimes painful, but I don’t believe I have ever read a book that presents a more powerful challenge…daring the reader to put themselves for 279 pages in the shoes of Ben Givens and answer that question. ( )
  Carol420 | Aug 16, 2020 |
With almost universally positive reviews, I was surprised how clunky East of the Mountains was. It feels written, as opposed to lived in; the characters feel constructed, the plot bolted together and the prose – which is one of the more commonly praised features – is over-detailed. Every minor thought and action is described, right down to a few lines going into the tying of shoelaces, proving a major drag on the pace of a plot that doesn't really have much substance to it anyway. The slew of place names in particular disrupt the flow, serving only to confuse rather than add texture.

Overall, the book is unconvincing in what it tries to do. Not only are the characters pulled off a shelf of the ready-made, but our protagonist, Ben, never convinces in the first place that he is going to suicide, and consequently his reappraisal and his pull back from the edge do not convince either. It all feels, as I said, bolted together, and you can feel the yaw as the plot points pivot and slump. It is very worthy, and maybe that's why it's not criticized very much, but I could not help but feel it was just sentimental Americana, capable only of inspiring a mild debate at some earnest Midwest book clubs. You just thirst for more texture, more appeal, as opposed to trivial details delivered by rote, and Ben's emotional journey remains unconvincing. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Nov 21, 2018 |
After an inoperable cancer diagnosis, widowed Ben decides to hear out for bird hunting, and "accidentally" shoot himself. Only he winds up totaling his car on the way, getting picked up by Hippies in a VW - and his trip unravels from there, allowing him time to focus outside of himself and realize that his suicide was going to harm, not spare, his family. Lovely descriptions throughout the book of the mountainous region near Seattle with the orchards. ( )
  nancynova | Mar 6, 2017 |
David Guterson, also author of Snow Falling on Cedars, is a wonderful, elegant writer. This is a far more personal story of one man, Dr. Ben Givens, a retired heart surgeon who, after learning he has colon cancer, decides to plan a hunting trip as a ruse to cover up his planned suicide. His wife had passed away 19 months earlier and he wanted to spare their daughter the pain of his decline and death. He is a man on a quest, facing his mortality, overcoming challenges, all while remembering his past. The singularity and purpose of the storyline is what made East of the Mountains so very successful for me. The characters and the landscape are well drawn, and you can easily visualize them. Guterson's writing is just so beautiful even while he tackles a difficult question.
Very Highly Recommended; http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
A poignant tale of Ben, a retired doctor with colon cancer who sets out on a hunting expedition with the intention of committing suicide. However, things do not go according to plan and Ben's encounters change his outlook. ( )
  sianpr | Sep 3, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Gutersonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boomsma, GraaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herrmann, EdwardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
There were ten thousand fruits to touch,/
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.

Robert Frost, 'After Apple Picking'
Dedication
To Robin, always, and for Henry Shain - he loved the mountains
First words
On the night he had appointed his last among the living, Dr. Ben Givens did not dream, for his sleep was restless and visited by phantoms who guarded the portal to the world of dreams by speaking relentlessly of this world.
Quotations
If he seized the shotgun in this way, wholly willingly, embracing it, allowing the metal to prod his mouth, he could blow the top of his skull off without logistical difficulty. The knowledge that this was indeed possible, that such an act was not out of reach, suffused Dr. Givens with a glandular fear that washed through him like a wave.
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A retired heart surgeon, recently widowed, does not wish to confront his terminal colon cancer. He decides to go on a last hunt in his home state of Washington.

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