Monday, June 23, 2008

34. East of the Mountains

by David Guterson, read by Don Hastings

I listened to this audiobook as it was the selection for my former, now long-distance/out-of-town book club. It's the story of a retired Seattle heart surgeon now suffering from colon cancer, who takes a hunting trip to Eastern Washington (east of the mountains), where he grew up, to stage a suicide.

The audiobook was read by Don Hastings, who has played Dr. Bob Hughes on the soap "As The World Turns" since 1960. I used to watch this TV show a lot in my son's first year, when he took an afternoon nap! Hastings' voice (besides bringing back this memory) was perfect for this narration, controlled yet emotional.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the book - the descriptions of the Snoqualmie Pass area and eastern Washington (Wenatchee, Vantage, etc.) brought back some good memories from my own trips to those areas during 21 years living in the Seattle area. I also checked out a print copy of the book and was glad I did so for the maps on the end papers of the areas described in the story.

The only parts that were tough for me to handle were some of the medical descriptions (sewing up the dog, the heart massage during WWII, the woman giving birth. etc.). Maybe it was something about it being read aloud that it was hard to skip over - I don't handle that kind of stuff very well!

I liked Ben's flashbacks to his youth and WWII, and thought it was interesting that smoking marijuana brought up those memories (perhaps reducing the pain from the colon cancer enough so Ben could have good dreams instead of bad?). It was nice to see that those memories and the other experiences and people Ben encountered during his road trip brought him around to what I think was the right decision about his life. Recommended.


  1. I read this several years ago and don't remember anything about it at all! I know I enjoyed it, and I want to read more of Guterson's books eventually.

  2. I'm pretty sure I read it long ago too (it's set in 1997; Ben was 73 then), but I also didn't remember it. I was going to skip it as I knew I would not be able to participate in the group's discussion, but decided to listen to it (and offer some e-mailed comments) when I found the audiobook. I'm glad I did!

    Thanks for commenting!