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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The imagery is almost hypnotic - a very peaceful read
The plot starts off looking deceptively simple. When confronted with his mortality, Ben Givens decides to take his life in a last ditch effort to take control of his existence. The sequence of events that follow, however, force Ben to re-evaluate his future in the light of past experience which, only at this point in his life, become significant. The experiences Ben...
Published on 7 Aug 2000

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful but no surprises
'Snow Falling on Cedars' had a wonderful sense of place, a tight and intriguing plot, and moments of gentle romantic eroticism. It also presented a fascinating insight into a unique community and its problems. 'East of the Mountains' is a much less ambitious novel. The evocative description is still there, so is the romance, and Guterson still writes genuine detail...
Published on 1 Sep 2000


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful but no surprises, 1 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: East of the Mountains (Paperback)
'Snow Falling on Cedars' had a wonderful sense of place, a tight and intriguing plot, and moments of gentle romantic eroticism. It also presented a fascinating insight into a unique community and its problems. 'East of the Mountains' is a much less ambitious novel. The evocative description is still there, so is the romance, and Guterson still writes genuine detail without it ever becoming pedantic. But there is plenty missing.
This is a story of a journey and the plot is inevitably looser, but what makes this novel ultimately unsatisfying is its predictability. For example, we are reminded of the fact that Ben Givens is a heart surgeon at the outset, and repeatedly throughout the book, so when we get to the point where his comrade is shot in battle and he watches the doctor's fight to save him, we know exactly what the outcome will be and why.
The characters too are rather one-dimensional, Givens himself, his wife, the young couple, the girl he meets on the bus and the woman who takes him under her wing, are all consistently good and flawless people. Only the owner of the wolfhound pack is a 'bad guy' and he is bad consistently, even to his own family.
I found certain similarities to Proulx's 'The Shipping News' - the work contains beautiful prose, but overall there are very few surprises and little that could be considered genuine plot. At least Proulx created entertaining and original characters.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A "pleasant little" book, but a disappointment for fans!, 5 July 2000
By 
cgent@mdiuk.com (Bristol, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: East of the Mountains (Paperback)
Anyone who is expecting a book similar in quality to Guterson's "Snow falling on Cedars" will be disappointed by this one. Barely more than a novella, this book follows Ben Givens, retired heart surgeon,hunter and terminally ill cancer patient, on his journey back to his East Washington roots to commit suicide.
The book is hugely readable, Guterson's writing flows elegantly (in fact it is hard to put down) and his descriptions of the Washington countryside are hugely evocative. And yet nothing happens! An old man sets out to commit suicide ... and fails; in the process of which he meets some nice and some not so nice people, a few nasty things happen to him and he delivers a baby. Then he goes home.
Perhaps I was expecting too much of this book: his first book dealt with so many different themes after all, and was as impressive as the landscape it was set it in. This one promised a lot, was easy to read but left me thinking "and so..?".
The book has to have three stars if only for its wonderful descriptions: it does not pick up any extra stars for content! I remain a Guterson fan, but hope that the wait for his next book will be more rewarding.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The imagery is almost hypnotic - a very peaceful read, 7 Aug 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: East of the Mountains (Paperback)
The plot starts off looking deceptively simple. When confronted with his mortality, Ben Givens decides to take his life in a last ditch effort to take control of his existence. The sequence of events that follow, however, force Ben to re-evaluate his future in the light of past experience which, only at this point in his life, become significant. The experiences Ben goes through in his efforts to get to the point of committing suicide are almost surreal. The sharpness of Guterson's description of his imagery make one wonder whether reality does appear this way when one is fully aware that he is dying. The beauty of this novel lies in the use of external images to enable the reader to come to an understanding of the internal terrain of Ben Givens' heart. An altogether rewarding read with pictures that continue to stay in the mind long after one has put the book down.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars East of the Mountains is a fine read!, 29 Mar 2001
By 
Rebecca Brown "rebeccasreads" (Clallam Bay, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: East of the Mountains (Paperback)
It is harvest time in the Columbia Basin of central Washington State where orchards droop with ripened fruit & Ben Givens, recently retired, widowered & diagnosed with cancer, heads east, over the Cascade Mountains into the still wild sage deserts for one last bird hunt with his Brittanies & his memories. A rain-slicked highway & a headlong skid into a tree changes his plans.
I thoroughly enjoyed David Guterson's writing which flows like windswept wild grasses, because I've roamed those same sagelands & I've known the same sort of world of hurt into which Ben Givens is headed.
David Guterson narrowly avoids sentimentality by allowing Ben's adventures to draw some blood, be scary enough to rouse a hero's lethargy & full enough with unexpressed loneliness, orneryness, dashes of dumb luck & mean spiritedness that kept me walking at Ben's side.
I wanted to hear more of those adventures. Having taken care of our Poppa during his last years of life, I had a very good idea just how valuable Ben's life & death will be to his daughter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, sensitive read - not challenging, 5 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: East of the Mountains (Hardcover)
Completely different from the brilliant, but sometimes stagnant Snow Falling on Cedars. I found this book a pleasure to read. It is also a very quick read, perhaps not challenging enough but nevertheless, thoroughly enjoyable. Ben Givens, surgeon, is dying of cancer - and his focus is on the quality rather than quantity of life when faced with a terminal illness. The book concentrates on the past and present, unfortunately Gutterson's reminising of Ben's past is less strong than the detail and observations he paid to the 'present' - creating a gulf in the standard of the writing. I felt a little disappointed when the book finished - but it is, after all, a inevitable conclusion. Ever since I been addicted to roasted pumpkin seeds - the description makes your mouth water!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gentle, evocative and painfully sad., 1 Aug 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: East of the Mountains (Paperback)
I, like many, came to this book through Snow Falling on Cedars, but found East of the Mountains a far more satisfying and compelling read. I find myself, several days on from completing the novel, re-calling, with a slow smile, the sweetness of the love Jack had known in his life, the smell of the apples and his dogged, but by no means cheesily heroic, attempts to complete his final hunting trip. On reflection, I did feel the birth scene in the pickers hut was clumsily handled and a little obvious and i never really felt the emotional connection between Ben and his grandson was as strong as it would have to have been to precipitate Ben's eventual change of plan. However, these critisms do not detract from the simplicity and beauty of this novel. Call me a nostalgic old fool, but it certainly made me cry.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beauty in ugliness, 11 Oct 2007
This review is from: East of the Mountains (Paperback)
Now I've heard that David Gutterson is quite an accomplished writer having also read raving reviews on `Snow falling on cedars', so thought this was worth a read.

Geographically, the book's setting depicts a large vast open space of fields, mountains etc. This is placed in direct contrast to the main protagonist, Ben Givens, and his inner emotional struggles in dealing with his raging colon cancer. He chooses to suffer in silence and takes a much closed standing, not even revealing the details to his closest family members. To him, his only option is suicide. We join him on his journey to his desired conclusion of life.

I have to take the same stance that the storyline is weak. The concept is improved by the injection of reminiscent stories of his past and the introduction of a few interesting characters he meets on his journey.

Again, Guterson should be applauded for his use of vivid imagery but also for his sensitivity in covering the subject of a terminal illness. Guterson's clearly done his homework in abundance with particular reference to geography, farming/orchard tending, war, medicine etc. He's definitely a stickler for detail and this makes the book seem a bit closer to reality.

From a personal note, this book deals with how an individual copes with suffering. It makes you think about your own circumstances and what you personally would do if you were in the same situation. The message very well may be not to `bottle' things up inside and to turn to your family and friends for support. We also see the main protagonist deliver a baby late in the book - clearly a medical gift that he has nurtured over the years. Again, this teaches us to appreciate the things we do have - possessions, family, friends but also your gifts and talents in life.

This is a very personal book and compelling, emotional read. It's a very plain look at an old man's reaction to a terminal illness. The setting/descriptive prose is high quality however the storyline and characters aren't so strong and will be receptive to mixed reviews.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very human, 13 May 2001
This review is from: East of the Mountains (Paperback)
This book is not about rock climbing but about one's relationship to oneself, about serious illness and the effect the knowledge of such has on one's mind and perception of the world. It is a book about love and care, about loneliness and despair, and about hope and desire. It follows Guterson's previous books and shows, with them, his great insight into the human mind and how one deals with important and painful questions and he does this against the background of the Pacific Northwest, one of the most beautiful parts of North America.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This is one book I want to give to all my friends, 28 July 2005
By 
This review is from: East of the Mountains (Hardcover)
This gem of a book is almost mythological in the way the hero sets out toward a grim destination, and in so doing encounters miracles, monsters and mayhem of the real kind. The characters are so well drawn that I felt as if the author knew each one personally. I was rooting for Ben all the way, sending thoughts of strength and hope to him as his odyssey took various detours, pitfalls, and delays. The sterling strength of character as he gives of himself to those in need despite his own waning health is nothing less than heroic. In giving of himself, he learns to look at the world in a whole new perspective and opens his heart to who he is and what he has to share. Two thumbs up, kudos, and raves for this touching, heart-warming book. Thank you Mr. Guterson for a magical, emotional journey!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A dash of Cormac McCarthy east of Seattle, 17 Jan 2003
By 
P. J. White (Auckland, New Zealand.) - See all my reviews
A man and a two dogs, few spoken words, open country and raw nature make this journey of a lifetime a compelling tale. Although it's no western, East of the Mountains involves a collision of civilisation and the old ways. The main character has spent his life as a thorassic surgeon, in situations where he tries to control life and cheat death. On what he sets out to make his final journey, he discovers that he can't seriously do either of these things.
It's a classically structured circular journey, which is in its way fulfilling. If anything, the anti-climax of the last page leaves you wanting just one more chapter.
East of the Mountains won't take you long to read, it takes a while to fade into the background.
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East of the Mountains
East of the Mountains by David Guterson (Paperback - 8 May 2000)
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