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East of the Mountains

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  5,748 ratings  ·  617 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
Paperback, 296 pages
Published July 8th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1999)
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Kris Ludwinski I just finished reading the book today for my book club and did enjoy it. It was different than Snow on Cedars but powerful in its own way. Very…moreI just finished reading the book today for my book club and did enjoy it. It was different than Snow on Cedars but powerful in its own way. Very honest and straightforward, with a lot left unsaid but filled in by the description of the surroundings and the locale and the memories. Beautifully descriptive and highlights the importance of life in a realistic way. Shows us how we all affect those around us and that life is truly worthwhile. I would recommend it for a book club reading, especially for your 50+ group. Enjoy!(less)

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Average rating 3.60  · 
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Susan B.
Feb 24, 2008 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
Dec 01, 2010 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
Linda Hart
Jun 27, 2009 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.
Feb 18, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1999
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 ...more
Linda Boyd
Feb 07, 2012 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 ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
Eloquent prose, but I found most of it boring and painful to finish. I finally gave up at 50%.
Fred Forbes
Nov 11, 2012 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
robin friedman
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Age, Wandering, And Wisdom

David Guterson's novel "East of the Mountains" is set in the Columbia Basin of central Washington in the late 1990s. It tells the story of Dr. Ben Givens, a renowned heart surgeon who has recently lost his wife, retired, and learned he is suffering from terminal colon cancer. With the goal of saving himself and his family from unnecessary pain and suffering, he sets out with his two dogs on a hunting trip with the intention of committing suicide.

The book has strong
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
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Being a huge fan of David Guterson, I recognized his writing as soon as I opened the book. It was like coming home. Descriptive landscapes lend themselves to being there. You can almost smell the northwest forest. The characterizations are always individuals that I can relate to quite easily because they are anyone, everyone. The story takes place, except for some flashbacks, in perhaps a two day span. This book is about a dying man, and his internal journey while taking a physical journey. ...more
Jul 15, 2015 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 ...more
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was really keen to read this having loved Snow Falling on Cedars. I found it hard to put down.
At one point I thought, I don't like hunting or guns or even hiking much but here I am reading all about it and being really engrossed.
The plot takes some twists and turns and the way it's written you just have to keep reading to find out what happens.
Even the parts where Ben is reminiscing about his past fit in perfectly with what is happening in the present.
Great writing.
Andy Miller
Aug 13, 2016 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
Lauren Stoolfire
DNF'd @ page 20

This just wasn't for me.
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This rather short story by David Guterson is beautifully written. I especially like his descriptive writing about Eastern Washington State. I have been to Seattle a number of times, but I can't say I really know the state until I go east of Seattle, "east of the mountains." I certainly got a sense of what the area is like in this book. The story is about a retired surgeon who has terminal cancer. He decides to take his two dogs and go on one last hunting trip-for the purpose of committing ...more
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Michael Twist
Jul 24, 2014 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 ...more
Dec 07, 2008 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
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book! I would have given it 4.5 stars! Maybe I loved it because I was reading it while I was in Orchard Country in Washington when I read it! I loved the main character and I loved the story. It makes me think that I want to read Snow Falling On Cedars again!
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
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.
Well written but melancholic novel about an elderly surgeon afflicted with colon cancer, who decides to commit suicide rather than suffer until the end. The journey he takes, both literally and figuratively, is very slow moving, sometime even sleep inducing to me, but in the end it was worth reading. Not nearly as good as Snow Falling on Cedars, though.
Sharon Huether
Sep 14, 2015 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 23, 2011 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.
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The beauty of this book is in its quiet elegance. The reader is situated in Ben's head as he searches for a transcendent and poetic way to end his days, in contrast to the undignified assault of the cancer that is already slowing him down. Bathetic obstacles intervene in Ben's plan, making a mockery of his attempt to control his own fate and eventually bringing him, bedraggled and melancholy, back home, now inclined to spend his final days with his family rather than indulging in suicide, even ...more
Pat King
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book, my father would have enjoyed this book I think.
It resonated with me and I’m sure it would have with him.

We are both have strong ties and roots to Eastern Washington.

I lived in small towns mentioned such as Othello, Quincy and Yakima.
I remember when my oldest sister and I were going to walk from Quincy to George. I can’t recall how far we got.

My dad was born and raised in Spokane and was an avid bird hunter, his haunts included Pomeroy and Starbuck. He told me stories of his early
Jul 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars...not quite a 4, yet still an interesting read. The premise - a retired 73 year old doctor has terminal colon cancer. Instead of 'inflicting' his family with his death, he decides to commit suicide. This book is not just about that decision but his whole life journey - lots of flashbacks - and a display of his character. He is a good man, who loved his wife now dead, well. On his suicide journey he meets people who affect him in ways that arouse his willingness to live. The book is ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Not quite as good as Cedars, but still a solid, though dark, story. I thought I got a really good sense of what life is like in that region of the country. Guterson is a good writer, though he doesn't produce a lot of fiction, which is too bad. The hunting parts are not really my thing. Did touch chords with some of my feelings as I also get older. Overall though, I think most readers who pick this up will enjoy it.
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really beautifully written, the main character goes on a journey and meets several people along the way. It’s a testament to the author that I want to know more about these side characters, even though they only appear on a few pages. Very beautiful writing, I was totally immersed in the story and how Ben learned something about his journey and worth from every encounter.
It was difficult to finish. The reminiscing parts of the story were too long & very descriptive, occasionally holding some interest. I had to skim some of the descriptions or I never would have finished it. I did enjoy the sections that were in the present,
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
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Am I the only one that really liked this book? 21 40 Feb 13, 2017 11:16AM  

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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
“The rain fell with such fervor that the world disappeared.” 14 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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