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The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind: Stories [Hardcover]

David Guterson
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug 1989
Like his PEN/Faulkner Award -- winning novel Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson's beautifully observed and emotionally piercing short stories are set largely in the Pacific Northwest. In those vast landscapes, hunting, fishing, and sports are the givens of men's lives. But although Guterson's characters go into the wilderness in search of mallards or silver trout, they discover other things instead: the decay of their youthful ardor; the motiveless cruelty of strangers; their own capacity for deception and grief.

Generously imagined, masterfully restrained, and written in prose that stings like the scent of gunpowder, The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind is a collection of extraordinary power.

Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson, is also available from Random House AudioBooks.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Harpercollins (Aug 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060160977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060160975
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,335,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Opening day.... 9 Jan 2011
I will always be grateful for this book. The night my father died I couldn't sleep and got up to wander around downstairs. I came upon this book or part of it in one of those magazine giveaways, it was just lying around. I sat down to dip into it by the light of a table lamp. The short story I read was called 'Opening Day'. Its about a father and son going out to hunt early in the morning. It drew me in and comforted me in a way that I'd not have thought possible. Gutterson manages to convey all of the frailties and imperfections of father-son relationships without being heavy handed or leading you too much. The understated dialogue and interplay of the narrative with nature gives the tale an elegiac feel that is both poignant and real. At my lowest, lowest ebb it miraculously made me feel better.

Like 'Opening Day' many of the other stories feature turning points or characters on the brink of great change as you'd expect from the title. The stories also share, for the most part, a close connection to nature and Gutterson's great ability to evoke mood and ideas by almost paying homage to the landscape he describes. 'Angels in the Snow' is a departure from this - a tendency towards infidelity is foretold by the apparently innocent recklessness of youth as a protagonist looks back on a failed relationship in later life. Gutterson's writing is a bit ponderous at times but I'll always be grateful for the comfort and warmth of 'Opening Day'.
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3.0 out of 5 stars More suitable for male readers 17 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this because I really enjoyed "Snow Falling on Cedars" and another novel about a surgeon who was terminally ill (can't recall the title) which I also rated highly. However, I gave up on this book after reading a couple of the stories which , although well written, I found were male-orientated - for example a hunting expedition - and didn't appeal to me.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When I was one and twenty... 9 Nov 1997
By A Customer - Published on
My daughter said Guterson is a good writer. She is right. This collection of his short stories is interesting, thought-provoking, sometimes upsetting.
Guterson's stories are set, loosely, in the Northwest; Washington, I take it. They are the narratives of men who remember events or chains of events that had meaning to them, but who offer no interpretations. That is left to us. Though the specific events weren't all familiar to me, the situations and feelings were.
All of the stories in the collection deal with boys growing into men, of poor starts and poor transitions into manhood, of friends who drifted away, of love that was thrown away. Some of the pictures Guterson draws are sorrowful, as when he remembers the hunt on which his father began to show the first unmistakable signs of old age, and the romance that the author left behind to become a baseball star.
This road that we travel with Guterson, the one stretching behind and ahead, is a hard one. It's full of pain. But the journey's to a better place, and we have to make it. The stories affected me powerfully, especially as I read them in middle age.
Guterson is not shallow, and his prose is often difficult. In a few stories the syntax was so involved that I had to read passages several times. Sometimes I understood them. Other stories were written simply; they communicated easily to me. The fault is largely mine; I had been reading so many escape novels that I wasn't in shape to contend with stories full of real thought written in challenging style. But Guterson's writing isn't easy. When he wrote these stories he was younger. Was he under the close guidance of a mentor he wanted to impress, and so felt encouraged to exercise his prose?
I'll try the other Guterson book my daughter recommended when I can find it. This young Guterson is a good writer with a good early insight into something worth examining. He's older now. With a little age undoubtedly will have come more stability of expression.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Snow 26 Jan 2002
By John J. Regan - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm aghast when I read the reviews of my fellow readers but then I take in account the common misperception that a short story is somehow easier to write or a lesser achievement than a novel. The truth is that short stories are more difficult to write, every sentence must punctuate, there is no breathing room. In the two novels I have read of Guterson, the endless pages of description are wonderful but can be top-heavy at times, whereas these stories are lean creations, leaving me wanting more. While it's no Pigeon Feathers, Guterson has been handed the wordsmithing baton from Updike, and the rich prose reminds me of Updike, satiating a yearn I have for quality short stories. I thoroughly enjoyed these, I liked them better than either of his novels, I hope he writes more.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a solid collection with some very strong stories 13 Oct 2000
By M. H. Bayliss - Published on
I'm surprised how many really did NOT like his stories. It seems that after reading his novel, they wanted greater things from these early short stories. I found lots of promise in these short stories with much of the subtle style that he uses later in Snow Falling. The strongest stories in the collection involve young boys growing up in the Northwest. Although the action is lots of hunting and fishing, there is a major undercurrent of emotional tension and frustration. In some ways, these remind me of some of Hemingway's early stories, not so much in terms of style, but setting. The Hunters, for instance, brought back images of Hemingway's The Battler. If I could have given this collection 3 1/2 stars, I would have, but it's just short of 4. Still, I enjoyed almost every story in the collection. Guterson is a "show" not tell type of writer, so I suspect some readers weren't watching closely enough. There's beauty and depth in some of these stories.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Time well spent. 8 Nov 2009
By Gerald Eckert - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Guterson in smaller bites. The pictures evoked by "Snow Falling on Cedars" and the thoughts from "East of the Mountains" come
differently, but every bit as clearly.
Not as different as "The Other", and perhaps that was due to the medium.
I look forward to his next novel, more than short stories.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very mixed bag 25 Mar 2002
By J. Mullin - Published on
Format:Audio Cassette
This audio collection contains two cassettes and unabridged versions of many of the short stories in Guterson's collection, but not all stories are included in the audio version. Sorry I can't tell you which ones are here, cause the cover for some reason has no contents listed, and narrator Campbell Scott often moved so fast from one story to the next I never heard the title of half of them.
By and large, I liked the stories on tape number one, especially the poignant tale of two brothers growing up in the 1960's whose family leaves their Oregon coastal motel and moves to Seattle. I think that one was titled "Day of the Moonwalk" or something like that. There is a real sense of nostalgia here, and the interplay between the brothers was heartwarming as they realized they didn't share a bedroom anymore, and as they scoured downtown Seatlle for a basketball hoop.
I also enjoyed the duckhunting tale (probably "Opening Day"), as well as the doomed romance between a bookish young girl and a minor league pitching prospect. I thought the book was narrated effectively by actor Campbell Scott (he of the movie "Singles"), who handled dialogue especially well.
However, especially once we get to tape two, Guterson sometimes lapses into an overly descriptive, somewhat experimental style that probably would give creative writing professors nationwide fits. I was particularly appalled by the story involving the young guy who wanders over an old man's land in Massachusetts, on his way to a nursing home to care for the elderly. Throughout the story, Guterson bombards the reader with an endless array of adjectives and adverbs, over-extending his sentences with unnecessary verbal flourishes that ruined the otherwise mediocre story for me. Hemingway, always a proponent of lean, unflowery prose, would have spun in his grave had he heard this one.
I really liked Snow Falling on Cedars, and Guterson has a knack for writing about the Pacific Northwest and using the setting as an integral part of the story. These stories show a young writer first experimenting and finding his voice, with a handful of successes surrounded by an occasional clunker.
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