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East of the Mountains

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  4,412 Ratings  ·  461 Reviews
It is mid-October, 1997, harvest time in the Columbia Basin of central Washington state, a rich apple- and pear-growing region. Ben Givens, recently widowed, is a retired heart surgeon, once admired for his steadiness of hand, his precision, his endurance. He has terminal colon cancer. While Ben does not readily accept defeat, he is determined to avoid suffering rather tha ...more
Hardcover, 279 pages
Published April 19th 1999 by Harcourt Brace and Company (first published 1999)
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Susan B.
Feb 24, 2008 Susan B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Guterson is an extraordinary writer and storyteller. I read his first novel, Snow Falling on Cedars while spending one extremely snowy winter in Chicago with my dear Aunt Cassie as she fell ill with cancer and spent her last days in a hospice. The staff was nice enough to let me stay overnight anytime I wanted, so I often stayed up late watching the snow fall reading this book, keeping my Aunt company as she rested.

I'm in Chicago again this year, so I decided to mark the (eighth) anniversary of
Other than the middle section describing his time in the war, this is an excellent book. It sits firmly in the old narrator reflects on his life as he faces death niche, and breaks little new ground. But still, a well-written account with interesting characters along the way and enough present-day activity to keep the plot interesting. The book focuses on the life of Ben Givens, born to an apple-orchard family in Washington State. Diagnosed with colon cancer, he decides (at the beginning of the ...more
Dec 07, 2008 Mommalibrarian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Story of an old man who is dying of colon cancer and his decisions over less than a week of time. The author seemed to know a lot about the place and work of the orchards east of the mountains in Washington state. The description was very interesting.

Here is a bit of text I particularly like to give you a flavor of the book. It was not all as good as this as his thoughts wandered widely over his life.

"And why couldn't he detach himself from this earthly, mad desire? Why did he go on wanting a wo
Aug 31, 2009 Momoselli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Actually 3.5 rating. I had a lot of personal stake in this book which completely colored my reading (described later), so my rating may not be very useful to others. Having just read Our Lady of the Forest and read years ago Snow Falling on Cedars, I think this is one of the funniest of Guterson's books. His humor is mostly dark, circumstantial, "oh no, now what" type of humor and I think the protagonist's ridiculous quest-events showcase that humor best of the 3 books. The lead character is doi ...more
Linda Hart
Eloquent, beautiful prose, but boring, slow story. Put it this way: if I were in the middle of a chapter and the phone rang it wouldn't bother me to put the book down and forget about it until I dusted the table it was sitting on.
Aug 13, 2015 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Low 3. This novel has the strengths of an excellent premise and wonderful descriptive prose, but the plot feels contrived and the pace sluggish. Guterson has unquestionable ability in painting a landscape so adroitly that it can attain as much attention as the main characters. Moreover, the novel's intended focus is one which promised much, and which could blend with the setting seamlessly. Ben Givens, a retired surgeon and widow, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and decides to save hims ...more
Feb 04, 2014 Mark rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub-reads
The premise of a man dying of cancer but deciding, so as to spare his family heartache of a long drawn out death, to commit suicide in such a way that it would appear like a hunting accident didn't augur well. I had loved 'Snow falling on cedars' so thouight to give this a go. Am I pleased I did?

Our hero's plans do not run smoothly and along the way he meets and interreacts with a whole horde of characters. It is not simply a straightforward cliche'd ' man-learns-the-value-of-life-through-his e
Similarly to Cold Mountain, this novel takes up the odyssey theme. Ben Givens, a retired surgeon is dying of cancer. He decides to kill himself, and decides to go to over the mountains and do it. However, along the way he'll meet other people who'll affect him more than he could ever have thought.

This is a pretty simple story, though through its simplicity it actually works. Guterson obviously knows his way around the areas he describes, and even though his dialogue is extremely wooden in places
Oct 24, 2011 Gale rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story was good and Dr. Ben was given hope again from total strangers which is always an uplifting feeling but I first read "Snow Falling on Cedars" and there is no comparison. Snow is much better.
Oct 31, 2011 Jerry rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, 2011-challenge
I enjoyed and was moved by this book. I was hesitant about it at first, thinking it might be too depressing, but oddly I didn't find it to be so. A successful retired heart surgeon,with a recent diagnosis of terminal Colon Cancer,just a few years after losing his wife of 50 years. He embarks on one last journey through central Washington, hunting fowl with his dogs. Along the way, he has some significant encounters. We also learn more about his life as a teen growing up on an orchard, and the st ...more
Robyn Canny
I have started to read this book after buying it at a sale at the library. The books were donated by a library member who I once attended Book Club with. She was an avid reader and had a penchant for crime novels, but her collection was varied. I have read Snow falling on Cedars when it was released many years ago and enjoyed it so thought I would give this one a try.
It's the story of a retired doctor/surgeon who discovers he has cancer. As his wife of 50 years had died 18 months prior, he think
Linda Boyd
Feb 07, 2012 Linda Boyd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was hesitant to start this book since it is about a man facing his mortality but I am oh so glad that I did. This book is beautifully written about a man facing death but also realizing what life is about. He is not an extraordinary man yet he is in the aspect that every person is and each person has their own unique experiences to make them so. I loved this book so much, it made me feel good about life and also helped me realize somehow that facing death doesn't have to be so terrible, and be ...more
Feb 23, 2013 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have read this book twice, not something I normally do, and now listened to it again in audio format.
It remains an extraordinarily well written story about a man's journey, of literally and figuratively coming to terms with his dying, through the physical journey he takes through the landscape of his youth and the people he encounters there.
This narrator truly does justice to the story, with Guterson's descriptive language of the landscapes the man has traveled and is traveling through.
Fred Forbes
Nov 11, 2012 Fred Forbes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had a meeting with a potential financial planning client and the conversation moved from finance to books. He had this one in his car and was going to pass it on to a woman in hospice who, unfortunately, did not last long enough for him to do so. So, he laid it on me.

Interesting topic. How to kill yourself and make it look like an accident rather than putting your family through the months of steady decline and pain from colon cancer. (Interesting that I read a recent article on how doctors die
Hilary G
Dec 12, 2012 Hilary G rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure it was a good idea to read a book about someone who was dying while I was feeling like death warmed up, but that's what I did. I have had this review fumigated and sterilised by Rentokil to make sure you don't catch flu from it.

In a sense, one of the major characters in this book was the landscape. It wasn't just there like a backdrop, it was in the forefront participating, influencing and often controlling everything that happened. If this had been a film, the mountains would have
Jan 29, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm definitely a Guterson fan--I like the slow layers of description on top of deeply moving life experiences. The last third of the book was the easiest part to read because things--momentous things--were happening continuously : Ben's remembered war experiences, the action-packed end of his journey, the resolution of his desire to end his life.

Occasionally, Guterson's readers have to wade through endless detail, and this book was no exception. There's a lot about apple-growing, the war in nor
Steven Howes
Apr 06, 2013 Steven Howes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book by the author of "Snow Falling on Cedars" to be an incredible story. I will have to admit that I started this book a number of years ago and found the opening quite depressing and put it down. Just recently, I decided to give it another shot and I am very glad I did.

The main character is a recently retired and widowed heart surgeon from Seattle who has just been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer (I think I mentioned this isn't a comedy). Being a physician, he is well aware o
Schuyler Wallace
Sep 13, 2013 Schuyler Wallace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed David Guterson’s first novel, SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS, although contrived situations and a trial that was somewhat unrealistic gave me pause. The writing was good, however, and the book went on to much acclaim. In EAST OF THE MOUNTAINS, his second novel, he sends a lonely 73-year old retired heart surgeon on a journey that originated as a trip on which he intended to die. Dr, Ben Givens, diagnosed with terminal cancer, intended to stage a hunting accident that would end his life.

A strin
Steve C.
Oct 21, 2013 Steve C. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Ben Givens is a 73 year old retired doctor and a widower, recently diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. Still haunted by his experiences as a soldier in the war, and in mourning for Rachel, his late wife of 50 years, Dr. Givens's current life consists primarily of his family (a daughter and grandson), and occasional hunting trips. Although he hunted as a boy with his father and brother, he abandoned it after the war, only taking it up again upon Rachel's death. Aware that he is nearing the ...more
Audrey Stephens
Feb 06, 2014 Audrey Stephens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book by the author of Snow Falling on Cedars. While not an easy topic, (the main character has terminal cancer) this book is in no way a downer and in many ways is a real celebration on life. There are many flashbacks to earlier times, some set in Eastern Washington and some in Europe during WWII. Our protagonist meets many interesting characters along the way and the author does a good job of fleshing out these little vignettes. For those of us familiar with Washington State, this boo ...more
Paula Dembeck
Dec 06, 2014 Paula Dembeck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ben Givens is a seventy-three year old retired cardio-thoracic surgeon, who recently lost his wife Rachel whom he still mourns. Diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, he has decided to end his life rather than put himself and his family through the needless suffering required in letting the disease take its course.
He has a plan which he intends to enact on one last bird hunting trip with his beloved Brittanys. Using the rifle he inherited from his father, he plans to shoot himself in a way that
Michael Twist
Jul 29, 2014 Michael Twist rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One wonders what Wolfe would have thought of David Guterson's dying, but determined, doctor doing what Wolfe had suggested was impossible. Unwilling to subject his family to the agony they had endured with his wife's death, Dr. Ben goes on something of a pilgrimage back to the Washington apple orchards of his youth. The journey's itinerary involves a final hunt with his beloved dogs before culminating in a suicide that is intended to look like an accident (thereby leaving his daughter in the dar ...more
Kathleen Hagen
East of the Mountains, by David Guterson, Narrated by Don Hastings, produced by Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio, downloaded from

David Guterson is a favorite author of mine starting from his first novel, “Snow Falling on Cedars” which he hasn’t equaled since, but may have done so In this book.

Ben Givens is retired now but was a well-known and respected heart surgeon. He retired about the time that his wife of 50 years died. Already depressed, he learns that he has terminal colon cancer.
Jul 15, 2015 Chuck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have only read two of Guterson's books, but have been impressed with both. This novel reads like a memoir except that it is fiction. The story is about the life of a doctor that served in World War II, had a great romance and life until his wife's recent death. The story centers on the fact that he is now diagnosed with terminal cancer and how he deals with this final blow. He escapes into the wilds of eastern Washington, where he was raised and commences to hunt, hike, hitchhike and make a di ...more
Sharon Huether
Sep 15, 2015 Sharon Huether rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A retired doctor with terminal cancer, traveled the country side with his two hunting dogs to shoot a few birds. He meets a number of people along the way. The help he gives them are returned to him in spades. This story is so beautifully written that the reader feels in step with the characters.
Nov 13, 2015 Caprice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Guterson has a gift for decorating his stories with specific, ordinary details and a profound sense of place. Somehow the careful precision of these details, and the attention they demand from the reader, convey dignity and serenity. And so it was with East of the Mountains, whose main character Dr. Ben Givens sets out into the hills with his dogs for a final hunting trip, knowing he has terminal cancer, trying to stage an ending that will spare himself and his children an ugly and gloomy ...more
Andy Miller
Aug 13, 2016 Andy Miller rated it really liked it
I first read this novel of Ben,a 73 year old man facing death from cancer ,when it was first published. I just finished reading it a second time seventeen years later and noticed that my perspective had changed, during the first reading I identified with the narrator's forty something daughter and viewed the narrator, a recently widowed retired heart surgeon, with detachment, now of course the retired doctor's musings on his current and past life are more relevant.
The novel starts with Ben lea
Mary Kinietz
Oct 02, 2016 Mary Kinietz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very compelling
Matt Ward
I've loved the Guterson novels I've read in the past. He has a beautiful prose style to supplement his thoughtful and emotionally wrought stories.

This one faltered in many ways. The jargon was over-the-top and kept pulling me out of the story. I get why the war scenes were there. The whole novel is an examination on the ways people choose to die, are involved in random incomprehensible death, or someone else chooses to kill a person. War is a meditation on this last part.

This reinforcement of th
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Am I the only one that really liked this book? 19 33 Jul 20, 2013 09:33PM  
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David Guterson is an American novelist, short story writer, poet, journalist, and essayist.

He is best known as the author of the novel Snow Falling on Cedars (1994), which won the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award. To date it has sold nearly four million copies. It was adapted for a 1999 film of the same title, directed by Scott Hicks and starring Ethan Hawke. The film received an Academy Award nomination f
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“The rain fell with such fervor that the world disappeared.” 10 likes
“Ben remembered that in Italy, he and Rachel had slipped down between rows of apple trees on the plain of the Po, deep into the cool and dark of orchards, and there they had kissed with the sadness of newlyweds who know that their kisses are too poignantly tender and that their good fortune is subject, like all things, to the crush of time, which remorselessly obliterates what is most desired and pervades all that is beautiful. ” 6 likes
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