1999 "First Edition" stated; Harcourt Brace & Company publishers, New York; hardbound in moss green boards with fine gilt lettering along spine; very good condition with unmarked pages, appears unread; illustrated dust jacket very good.
East of the Mountains is a novel by American author David Guterson, first published in 1999, and in paperback in 2000. His second full novel, it marks something of a change of pace from the taut courtroom drama of Snow Falling on Cedars (1994), being primarily focused on the chance actions and introspective musings of its protagonist over the course of a few days.
The overarching theme of the novel is evidently the cycle of life and death, the interplay between the two, and the choice the individual can make to embrace one or the other. This is of course primarily highlighted in the main story of Ben's intent to commit suicide; although death is inevitable (as his cancer makes clear), Ben is still faced with the question as to whether life is precious enough to be worth maintaining for as long as possible, or whether a quick death to avoid the inevitable hardships of life is preferable.
This theme is also explored in the two extended flashbacks found within the narrative. In the first, the life element of Ben's birth and childhood in an orchard environment (i.e. a place of new life) is contrasted with the death of his mother, and the killings performed by his Father whilst hunting.
Similarly, in the second flashback (set during the war), the choice of Ben's wife-to-be Rachel to become a nurse contrasts with Ben's choice to enter the war as an active soldier. It is significant that the flashbacks culminate with Ben's horror of killing a man in battle, and his admiration for the surgeon who saves his friend - an event which leads to his decision to follow Rachel's advice and become a doctor.
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