David Guterson – East of the Mountains


Background: This is the final book read, as part of the Take A Chance Challenge hosted by Jenners. Challenge#7, i.e. Random Bestseller reads:

Go to Random.org and, using the True Random Number Generator, enter the number 1950 for the min. and 2008 for the max. and then hit generate. Then go to this site and find the year that Random.org generated for you and click on it. Then find the bestseller list for the week that would contain your birthday for that year. Choose one of the bestsellers from the list that comes up, read it and write about it.

So, I came up with 1999, May 6, and the book I ended up picking was David Guterson’s bestseller, East of the Mountains.



While a 1999 bestseller is promising, I regret to say I didn’t finish this book. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have picked the book up, but, let’s face it: the whole point of this challenge was to pick books I wouldn’t have normally “taken a chance on”. The thing is, the book is really beautifully written, with amazing descriptions about the landscapes, that the author brings to life:

At the far end of Keechelus Lake, the sky eastward opened wide over distant coulees, buttes, and canyons, all swathed in morning light. Ahead lay a low film of red on the horizon where the sun was new; the road wound down through a a stand of grand firs with long, broad, flat needles.

The story revolves around Dr. Ben Givens, a widower suffering from terminal cancer. He decides to go on a last hunting trip, from which he never intends to return, as he meticulously plans his death, so that it seems like an accident. Essentially, he doesn’t want his daughter and grandson to undergo the pains of seeing him suffering.

However, almost before he starts his journey, his plans are turned upside down, by an accident, but he continues with his dogs, on foot, reflecting on the life gone by.

It does sound like an interesting read, but the minute the book started talking about hunting, and killing small birds, I stopped reading it. I don’t know why, but, it just made me wary. It’s weird, because I enjoy a good murder mystery. My love for reading started with crime thrillers, and I have read some reasonably gory books centring around misanthropists and misogynists. Yet, I just can’t stomach cruelty to animals… and, I don’t get why!

I’m not going to bother rating this book, because clearly, it’s not for me, but, I am going to spend some time introspecting as to why cruelty to animals hits me so hard. I stopped reading this about two weeks ago, and I’m still at a loss.

Any ideas? Do any of you feel strongly about something that you can’t really explain as well? Is it just a temporary thing? Please help!

12 Responses to “David Guterson – East of the Mountains”

  1. Maybe not a review, but an intriguing post; and fair! In spite of what you said I am still thinking “ooh, that sounds interesting…”

    I’m wondering about the cruelty to animals? Was it deliberately cruel, or justifiable foraging? I have to admit that I am not much upset by accounts of hunting and trapping techniques, although I wouldn’t appreciate a lengthy account of an animal’s suffering. Having said that, if that is how it is, perhaps those of us who are carnivores should be obliged to examine the truth of our carnivourous lifestyle.

    I don’t like to read about anything or anyone being tortured, and extended accounts of such get skipped!

    So no answers: just more questions :)

    • Nah, I think it was just him reflecting on the past, and thinking of how he used to shoot, that got me. It wasn’t deliberately cruel, but then you say a “small bird”, and I’m thinking something cute like Tweety!

      I’m vegetarian, so that might have something to do with it. I’m even wary around eggs, lest there’s a baby chicken in them, just waiting to hatch out! Maybe it’s just idle naivety… maybe that’s not even possible, but… there you have it!

      Like you, I don’t like torture or other sadistic/masochistic acts. Just turn the page as fast as I can, although…. there have been some occasions where I’ve fascinated and just kept my eyes on the page – one of the Dexter books would be a good example!

  2. I have read this book, but so many years ago (maybe 1999, if that was the year it was published?) that I can’t remember what I thought of it. Your description does sound intriguing though and kind of made me want to read it again.

    I will have a look about and see if I can find a brief note I might have written (well before blogging days!) of what I thought of the book.

    I understand your squeamishness though. There is one book I read where I objected to something in the storyline so stopped reading it. Gore etc is something that I tend to rush past in a book (the equivalent of closing your eyes while watching a film, but that doesn’t really work with a book…) because I don’t like gory plots etc.

    • I hope you do find a note or two, because I do kind-of want to know more about the book, and how things turn out, but… just put off with it right now. Maybe I’ll tackle it another day.

      I’m with you with the gore, although, in some crime thrillers, the writers make it work incredibly well, and you (I) can’t help but read on and on and on…

  3. Kittens and puppies and bird (etc I could go on for hours) are all too cute to read about being shot. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of extreme cuteness and the awfulness of death that makes this such a hard bad act for you to read about, because it kind of heightens the awfulness of the situation?

  4. I haven’t read this book, but you do make me want to read it. I don’t mind fictional harming of animals, as long as the book isn’t glorifying it. I’ll be interested to see what I think of it.

    • As always, I’d be curious to see what you think of it too. Nah, I think this book glorifies the beauty of nature… but, apparently, one of the ways to appreciate nature is to go hunting.

      Maybe I’m being too quick to judge, but, I don’t do anything surrounding hunting too well.

  5. I’ve got this book on my TBR pile. I’m not sure how I will feel about some of these hunting scenes but I am willing to take a chance like you did and give it a try to see what I think.

    • The scenes aren’t quite as vivid as my post makes them out to be. In fact, it was just this one bit in the book that did it for me.

      I really hope you enjoy it, for the writing, I think, is gorgeous.

  6. 11 Pam

    My Take a Chance Challenge gives me…(drum rol)…Sophie’s Choice!

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