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David Guterson is the author of a collection of short stories, The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind; Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense; Snow Falling on Cedars, which won the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award, the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association Award, and was an international bestseller; and the national bestseller East of the Mountains.
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
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.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
"A compassionate and masterful achievement." --San Francisco Chronicle "A strikingly joyful book and a monumental achievement." --The Philadelphia Inquirer "The writing is wonderful throughout, the characters are vivid...heartfelt, engaging and well drawn." --The Miami Herald "Profound and ambitious. . . . Guterson depicts . . . moral and spiritual struggle with a clear-eyed intensity and intelligence that gives East of the Mountains its essential authority." --Chicago Tribune "The shape is elegant, the tone is perfectly controlled, almost cool, and Guterson's prose shines with [a] taut polish. . . .[He] is a craftsman with a sense of literary history, one of the most serious and accomplished young American writers." -The Atlanta Journal-Constitution "Guterson possesses a remarkable gift for capturing people and places, etching them into the reader's mind." -USA Today "Elegiac . . . like his first novel, Guterson's sophomore outing is a serious and surprising book. . . . A monumental achievement." -The Philadelphia Inquirer "In describing the world of a dying man, Guterson invokes the ultimate book of suffering-then, to his great credit, offers it here as a consolation rather than despair." -The Boston Sunday Globe "This book would be a challenge to praise too highly. It resounds with clarity. It feels like home." -The San Diego Union-Tribune "[Guterson] has produced a clean, unpretentious and expert piece of work, filled with the immediate beauty of everyday life and the desolation of leaving it behind." -The Washington Times "Wonderfully written, tender toward its characters, and full of incident and insight." -Men's Journal