A "male" story. This is about Ben Givens, a 73yo former cardiac surgeon who is dying of colon cancer. It is not depressing. He sets out to do some bird hunting and ret5urn to his boyhood home with the intention of killing himself in order not to suffer the last stages of cancer. Along the way he has both experiences and people that change his mind. He also reminisces about his earlier years, when he was in the war as a Private, when he met his wife, how he and his older brother Aidan grew up. Guterson is a very graphic writer...you can see his hills and dales and smell his sage and hear his birds. Altogether a totally enjoyable read, and a lesson in the philosophy of dying. 5 stars
I found this book ripe with meaning and messages about life, aging and compassion for all walks of life. Once again, Guterson has the ability to transport the reader from the written word into a captivating picturesque world through his story.
East of the Mountains is not about the courage it takes to die, but the courage it takes to live, and guterson depicts ths moral and spiritual struggle with a clear-eyed intensity and intelligence that gives [this novel] its essential authority.
This is a well-written and memorable novel about coming to terms with aging and mortality. Set in the orchard country of eastern Washington State, East of the Mountains is the story of Ben Givens, a WWII veteran, retired heart surgeon and widower. Mourning the death of his beloved wife, Ben sets out on a journey to complete a well-planned suicide, following a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Despite his careful planning and organization, Ben's arrangements fall apart following a car wreck; in the events that follow, Ben meets people: some who help him, and some who disparage him. Through a period of a few days and flashbacks to his childhood, romance and wartime experiences, Ben reassesses his life and future.
It isn't very often that I read a book that makes me feel as if I'm right there with the characters and not just an outsider looking in. This is one of the rare ones. The authors descriptions of the country, towns, the different eras in time and the people he introduces you to had me feeling as if I had actually experienced it along with the main character. I absolutely loved this story and it will be one that I'll be reading several times.
Poignant look into a man's look at the end of his life. Ben Givens, cancer victim and physician, chooses to end his life on his terms, but in the process learns quite a bit about himself and life in general. Wonderful journey!
Author of Snow Falling on Cedars, HBw/dj...harvest time mid-October 1997, Columbia Basin of central WA state, recently widowed Ben Givens, retired heart surgeion has terminal colon cancer...novel of personal discovery
I found it really interesting the way Mr. Guterson's prose shifts between the style he uses to tell the tale (a sad but meaningful one for many, I presume) and an exceptional style he uses to describe landscape and the natural world. Guterson would be a fascinating read if he stuck to the latter...
Debbie (saddler) reviewed East of the Mountains (Vintage Contemporaries) on
Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book. The main character Ben Givens is a strong but sensitive man who loves life, misses his wife and thinks that he can avoid being a burden to others. The characters that he meets along his chosen journey awakens his desire to continue on with his life.
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 than engage it. And so, accompanied by his two hunting dogs, he sets out through the mythic American West-sage deserts, yawning canyons, dusty ranches, vast orchards-on his last hunt. The main issues for Ben as a doctor had been tactical and so it would be with his death. But he hadn't considered the persuasiveness of memory-the promise he made to his wife Rachel, the love of his life, during World War II. Or life's mystery. On his journey he meets a young couple who are "forever," a drifter offering left-handed advice that might lessen the pain, a veterinarian with a touch only a heart surgeon would recognize, a rancher bent on destruction, a migrant worker who tests Ben's ability to understand. And just when he thinks there is no turning back, nothing to lose that wasn't lost, his power of intervention is called upon and his very identity tested. Full of humanity, passion, and moral honesty, East of the Mountains is a bold and beautiful novel of personal discovery.
A beautifully well-written and remarkable book about a 73 year old retired surgeon who finds out that he has terminal colon cancer. His wife died nineteen months ago and he doesn't want to burden his daughter with his illness so he plans on killing himself. Days don't go as planned and he ends up on a journey of a lifetime. I am so impressed with this author.
Unabridged audio version with an excellent reader. Although Guterson uses the language beautifully, this book is quite slow with far too much detail that neither helps move the story along or develop the characters. When an author starts describing bowel movements and medical procedures, it's time to call in an editor.
Wow. A beautiful story of a doctor who had lost his wife, quit his practice, was dying of colon cancer. This was his journey.... a long trek..... planning to die by his own hands, not a terrible death that his family would have to deal with. Quite a journey he took. This is not a gloomy, depressing story. This is a beautiful story of his journey............... and how it ended.
This is a beautiful story of a man, a retired doctor, on the road to self discovery. He sets out intending to commit suicide but events along the way eventually change his mind. This is a poignant story of a man's ultimate love for his family. I found myself pleading with him not to do this...but I won't ruin the ending. Read for yourself!
It is evident that the author loves and lives in the area written about in the book. Beautifully written, but too many rambling descriptions that were unnecessary and bogged the story down. Needs more plot. To me, this book is more aimed at male readers, who can appreciate reading about hunting and medicine in WWII. D.
The book was a bit slow in the beginning but it picked up quite nicely in the middle. Nice story telling going between the present and the past. Nice descriptions of orchards and fruit picking and Washington state scenery. Good read - the reader is kept in suspense until the very end.