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Now, however, Ben has been dealt a problem entirely beyond his powers of manipulation: a diagnosis of terminal cancer. With just a few months to live, he sets out across the Cascades for a hunting trip, planning to take his own life once he reaches the high desert. A car crash en route puts an initial crimp in this suicide mission. But the ailing surgeon presses onward--and begins a simultaneous journey into the past. Between present-tense episodes, which demonstrate Ben's cranky commitment to his own extinction, we learn about his boyhood in Washington's apple country, his traumatic war experience in the Italian Alps, and the beginning of his vocation.
Guterson narrates the apple-scented idyll of Ben's childhood in a typically low-key manner--and orchards, of course, are seldom the stuff of melodrama. Still, many of his ambling sentences offer miniature lessons in patience and perception: "They rode back all day to the Columbia, traversed it on the Colockum Ferry, and at dusk came into their orchard tired, on empty stomachs, their hats tipped back, to walk the horses between the rows of trees in a silent kind of processional, and Aidan ran his hands over limbs as he passed them with his horse behind him, the limbs trembling in the wake of his passing, and on, then, to the barn." The wartime episodes, however, are less satisfactory. Clearly Guterson has done his research down to the last stray bullet, but there's a second-hand feeling to the material, which seems less a token of Ben's detachment than the author's.
There is, alas, an additional problem. Begin a story with a planned suicide, and there are exactly two possible outcomes. It would be unfair to reveal Ben's fate. But as the forces of life and death yank him one way, then another, Guterson tends to stack the deck--particularly during a bus ride toward the end of the novel, when Ben's fellow passengers appear to have wandered in from a Frank Capra film. Yet East of the Mountains remains a beautifully imagined work, in which the landscape reflects both Ben's desperation and his intermittent delight. And Guterson knows from the start what his protagonist learns in painful increments: that "a neat, uncomplicated end" doesn't exist on either side of the mountains. --James Marcus
This book gives an insight to a doctor with terminal cancer and how he decides to deal with it. In the process he visits eastern WA where he grew up and remembers the experiences... Read morePublished 2 months ago by robert schmuke
This book kept me hooked all the way through. I highly recommend it. A very good read.Published 3 months ago by Chris G
I was so looking forward to reading this book since it was a number one best seller but overall I thought the book was just ok. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Kellie Collins
I have now read Snow Falling on Cedars, East of the Mountains, and the Other. I really loved Snow Falling on Cedars, it mixed rich characters and seamless writing style with some... Read morePublished 10 months ago by dayoB52
This book should come with an Atlas and GPS system. A retired 73-year-old takes a hunting trip with his dogs with the consideration of ending his life after his wife dies. Read morePublished 11 months ago by LindaFaith
Ben's journey lays bare the fears we all share about death and the common need to find meaning in living. Read morePublished 11 months ago by sahuaro6