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East of the Mountains

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  4,386 Ratings  ·  459 Reviews
From the author of Snow Falling on Cedars comes this bestselling novel about a dying man’s final journey through a landscape that has always sustained him and provided him with hope and challenges.

When he discovers that he has terminal cancer, retired heart surgeon Ben Givens refuses to simply sit back and wait. Instead he takes his two beloved dogs and goes on a last hunt
Paperback, 296 pages
Published July 8th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1999)
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Snow Falling on Cedars by David GutersonSometimes a Great Notion by Ken KeseyThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie FordThe Brothers K by David James Duncan
Pacific Northwest Books
52nd out of 607 books — 405 voters
Broken Point by Donna K. ChildreeGirl in Translation by Jean KwokEast of the Mountains by David GutersonThe Beekeeper's Lament by Hannah NordhausThe Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe
Change and Challenge
3rd out of 47 books — 38 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 04, 2014 Mark rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Susan B.
Feb 24, 2008 Susan B. rated it it was amazing
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
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
Linda Boyd
Feb 07, 2012 Linda Boyd rated it it was amazing
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
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
Andy Miller
Aug 13, 2016 Andy Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael Twist
Jul 29, 2014 Michael Twist rated it it was amazing
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
Fred Forbes
Nov 11, 2012 Fred Forbes rated it really liked it
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
Dec 07, 2008 Mommalibrarian rated it really liked it
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
Linda Hart
Jun 27, 2009 Linda Hart rated it it was ok
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.
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.
Jul 15, 2015 Chuck rated it it was amazing
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
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
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Mar 19, 2011 Lori L (She Treads Softly) rated it it was amazing
David Guterson, also author of Snow Falling on Cedars, is a wonderful, elegant writer. This is a far more personal story of one man, Dr. Ben Givens, a retired heart surgeon who, after learning he has colon cancer, decides to plan a hunting trip as a ruse to cover up his planned suicide. His wife had passed away 19 months earlier and he wanted to spare their daughter the pain of his decline and death. He is a man on a quest, facing his mortality, overcoming challenges, all while remembering his p ...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.
Oct 31, 2011 Jerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 29, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it
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
Nov 13, 2015 Caprice rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Audrey Stephens
Feb 06, 2014 Audrey Stephens rated it really liked it
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
Dec 29, 2015 Rolland rated it liked it
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
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.
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.
J.R. Ortega
Aug 01, 2016 J.R. Ortega rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 28, 2014 Isaiah rated it liked it
The book I read was called The East of the Mountains by David Gutterson. At first when I got the book I was kinda anxious about what it was about. The book is based on old man who was a doctor and had colon cancer. Before this had happen his wife had died before him. He knew he only had week to survive and he didn't want his daughter to know what was going happen.
I recommend this book to like grown ups for some reasons. The only reason is because in this book it talks about something's us kids
Sep 09, 2015 Lisasuej rated it liked it
Just further proof that I am a shallow person. I found this book boring, and was glad it was over, despite the fact that it was well-written. The World War II remembrances pale in comparison with that of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which I have just recently read, and this may be part of the problem.

Plot synopsis: Older gentleman is diagnosed with cancer, drives to Eastern Washington, meets some people, thinks and remembers things, goes home. The end.

If you want to read a truly stunning
Doug Canfield
Apr 12, 2015 Doug Canfield rated it liked it
This isn't a book I'd recommend, but that isn't a criticism of the writing. No, the writing is gorgeous, and Guterson is a master of empathy, imagery, and words. But that's not necessarily the type of fiction I enjoy most, which is typically escape from real life, rather than further immersion in it.

For starters, this story is melancholy, maybe even depressing. The main character is dying, with no chance of reversing the cancer eating him up and causing him significant pain. The fact that Guter
Feb 06, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
"The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray." So can be said for the main character in this beautifully written novel. Ben Givens is a retired thoracic surgeon who is facing his own mortality squarely in the face when he is diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. To spare his family from watching him suffer a long and agonizing death, he plans his own suicide. From the outset, his plans are thwarted, and he tries to make adjustments along the way so he can follow through with his plan. This ...more
Lola Stice
Mar 12, 2016 Lola Stice rated it really liked it
This was a beautiful book. Reminded me of Steinbeck in its treatment of the Yakima valley agricultural history (and a travel with dogs). Where some called cliche I disagree. In this plot there are only 3 possible outcomes. There was a lot of story packed into only 277 pages and despite his concise storytelling I truly enjoyed the amount of visuals and how beautiful that part of the country is. His prose is truly poetic in nature especially in his ability to capture and describe the natural world ...more
Oct 20, 2014 Shari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is such lyricism in this story. An old man, a retired doctor suffering from cancer, wanting to go out the way that means the most to him, he sets out on a well-planned 'last hunting trip,' into the hills and scarps of his youth, and then -- everything goes sideways. He encounters accidents, angry people, loving people, new friends, and he treats them all with goodness, surprise, and a cockeyed humor and kindness. He gives everything he has to give and even more, being very tough on himself ...more
Carol Wrenn
Jan 22, 2016 Carol Wrenn rated it really liked it
.....where they had missed 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 remourselessly obliterated what is most desired and pervades all that is beautiful

"What kind of cancer?" he asked.
"The dying kind," Ben answered.
"We're all dying. You're just closer to it."

Our life, she said, was full of worthy tasks to accomplish in accordance with our particular design, in such a way t
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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.” 9 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. ” 5 likes
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