East of the Mountains: A Book Review


What I found particularly interesting about East of the Mountains by David Guterson was that from the very beginning we knew that the character Dr Ben Givens, suffering from bowel cancer, was going home with his dogs to hunt birds for the last time and shoot himself. A retired heart surgeon Givens  wanted to have quality of life over quantity of life but he was determined that his suicide would look like an accident. Despite the novels predictability it was compelling and a book that was difficult to put down.

This was largely due to the evocative descriptions of place (Washington State) that Guterson wrote in eloquent prose. “He passed the night in a wood of fir trees close to the Skykomish River. It was dense, dark and silent there, wet and uninviting. But in the early morning he rose from dreams to find the river pale and lovely, mist steaming off its waters, the fog thick on its distant bank, and he went down in the cold dawn light  to wash his face at a riffle, where he saw a kingfisher flash by.”

Rather than plot driven this novel was a journey both backward and forward with some small climactic episodes from the present to move Ben Givens further on his external journey whilst the reader has the benefit of experiencing both the external and internal journey.

Would I recommend this book – yes. I thought it was a beautiful life journey with vivid imagery that allowed me to smell the apples, see the mountains and rivers and hear the war. I have not read Snow Falling on Cedars  and although I believe it too has wonderful description of place the story is very different. I have had it on my book shelf for at least 10 years (that tall pile of books to be read) and I know that it has moved up the pile and will soon be read.



About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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8 Responses to East of the Mountains: A Book Review

  1. Guterson is a lyrical writer. You’ve given an accurate review of East of the Mountains, but don’t wait to read Snow Falling on Cedars. I’ve read it twice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rowena says:

    Happy New Year, Irene. Hope you have a fabulous year in 2018!
    I so relate to the teetering book pile, and what annoys me most is that there are brilliant books which I have been well into reading and I just got busy and forgot to go back. Geoff and the kids went up to a family wedding on the Gold Coast on NYE and I didn’t feel up to going. I’m amazed at how much I’ve got done without them here, both in terms of sorting out the house, but also catching up on my reading. In terms of movies, I’ve rewatched: “Beaches” and “Dead POet’s Society” and I finally watched “A Theory of Everything”. A close friend of mine is living with MND, so it was very close to the bone for me and she’s also an academic. In terms of books, I finished a fantastic trilogy by Irish author, Brendan Graham about the irish Famine and I finally finished “Messy” by Tim Harford which advocotes messy thinking and is a truly brilliant book, which I should’ve finished months ago. I am now starting to read “Harry Potter”. My daughter’s been getting onto me to read it and I have intended to read it for some time. Felt it was probably a book all writers should read simply as part of the education. However, I guess I was put off by it’s enormous popularity and also by the flak its attracted. Anyway, I finally bit the bullet two days ago and am enjoying it. I am reading the first book thinking about her as an author and how she didn’t know this was going to be the most popular book series of our age. I find that rather encouraging on a personal level.
    Well, I’d better keep moving. It’s getting rather late.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy New Year Rowena. Hope your year is good also. I also hope that not feeling up to a trip to the Gold Coast doesn’t mean you are unwell at the moment although with the amount you have done since the family has gone I doubt it. I like the sound of “messy” and will put it on my teetering pile. How is your writing going?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rowena says:

        My writing has gone on the back burner over the last couple of months, as I’ve been researching these Irish Famine Orphans with a view of writing a book. I’ve dropped off from the blog a bit but am firing up for the New Year. How is your writing going?
        I am a bit under the weather with a dreadful barking cough. Struggling to clear my chest. I don’t think it’s serious but just very annoying.
        Take care & best wishes,

        Liked by 1 person

      • You can’t write without the research so you are getting somewhere Ro. Sometimes blogging has to take a back seat to life. Sometimes I think I could spend my entire time on WP reading and responding but you have to have a life as well. Come back with a happy medium.
        Hope your chest gets better. Cheers and best wishes for the New Year. Irene

        Liked by 1 person

      • Rowena says:

        Thanks very much, Irene. I’ve been catching up with a few bloggers since the new year began. I’ve spent a fair bit of time on the house, but have kicked back even more. The family arrives back late tomorrow night so the remaining time is mine. All mine!
        The cough has been much better today. The concoction seems to be helping. Thanks for your concern.
        xx Rowena

        Liked by 1 person

      • Glad you are feeling better. Having time to yourself is so valuable (and that is from one who only has a husband). Enjoy the time you have left. Nice to touch base again.


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