East Of The Mountains by David Guterson 
Reviewed by Steve Rudd


Alright, so you might not have heard of the author before, but you might actually be already familiar with some of his work, for his debut novel was called Snow Falling On Cedars… a staggering bestseller that came to be made into a Hollywood movie starring Ethan Hawke.

Such a debut made it apparent that Guterson is a truly fantastic storyteller who goes to great ends in researching before writing. East of The Mountains is the moving story of a man in his seventies – a doctor called Ben Givens - who is slowly but surely dying of colon cancer… a man who would rather commit suicide than let his family suffer the burden of having to care for him.

Still, the man doesn’t want his family to think that he has taken his life on purpose, so he heads out East from his home with the intention of going hunting and purposefully ‘getting caught up in barbed wire’ so that his suicide appears to be an accident.

However, nothing goes to plan, and through an unexpected string of events, the man actually learns to cherish life, realising that to squander even one day is unforgivable.

Guterson not only explores Givens’ grief-saturated thoughts and feelings on the fact that he is dying, but he also allows time to be spent on reflecting on the man’s youth, a time during which he fell in love with his wife and fought for his country in Italy during the war. It is via reminiscences that the extensive research the author has undertaken remarkably comes to light, as graphic scenes of war surge forth.

East of The Mountains is a truly graceful drama that is packed with originality. In many ways, it is a thoroughly riveting and inspirational read.

ISBN 0-7475-3985-5

(First published in 1999 by Clays Limited)

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