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East of the Mountains 1ST Edition


East of the Mountains 1ST Edition Cover

ISBN13: 9780151002290
ISBN10: 0151002290
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

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Reading Group Guide

Q> What is the importance-literal and symbolic-of Ben's movement eastward? What qualities are associated, through image and direct statement, with the concept of "east"? Q> Most quest novels feature young men or women on journeys of discovery. What effects result from Guterson's presentation of a dying seventy-three-year-old man embarking on a journey of rediscovery? What does Ben Givens (re)discover? Q> Do you think that coincidence and chance occur too often in the novel? What might be Guterson's purpose in countering Ben's lifelong "judicious deliberation" and "attention to all particulars" with the accidents and chance encounters he experiences? What is the significance of the several references to miracles? Q> If "Suicide was at odds with the life he knew, at odds with all he understood, of himself and of the world," why does Ben plan such a carefully thought-out, staged suicide? How would you describe Ben's understanding "of himself and of the world"? Does that understanding change during Ben's three days east of the mountains? Q> "He had been born in the cradle of apple orchards," Guterson writes of Ben, "and it was this world he wanted to return to." How important to Ben is this return to the apple-orchard country of the Columbia Basin at the height of the apple harvest? Given Ben's views on death and dying, why does he want to end his life in this "cradle"? What is significant in the fact that Ben's view of his family's old orchard is from a moving bus while he is busy with the ill migrant picker? Q> Do Ben's memories of family, Rachel, and war serve only to provide us with details of his past life? What bearing on Ben's present does each of his memories have? How do those memories help us understand Ben's life and behavior? Q> At the end of chapter two, Ben recalls that he and Rachel, on their honeymoon, "had kissed with the sadness of newlyweds who know...that their good fortune is subject, like all things, to the crush of time, which remorselessly obliterates what is most desired and pervades all that is beautiful."To what extent has time crushed the desired and the beautiful in Ben's life? To what extent do his experiences during his three-day journey counter that disquieting observation? Q> Why does Guterson pay so much attention to details of landscape and natural phenomena? Through what kinds of landscape, both past and present, does Ben travel? How is Guterson's presentation of each landscape important in terms of the corresponding stage in Ben's life and of his view of life at each stage? Q> What role does hunting play in Ben's life? What kinds of hunting does he participate in or observe, and what are the purposes and consequences? In what ways does his attitude toward hunting change? Q> How are the episodes involving the wolfhounds and their consequences significant, particularly in terms of Ben's inability to control or influence events? What details of landscape and time of night give these episodes particular import? Why does Ben, having found William Harden near his journey's end, relinquish the gun to the wolfhound owner with the statement, "That gun is cursed"? Q> As he settles Rex into the cab of Stu Robinson's tractor-trailer, Ben thinks, "There were no good answers to important questions." What are the important questions, from Ben's perspective? What answers does he find? Which of those answers, if any, are "good"? Q> What is the importance of Ben's experience in the field hospital in Italy, and of Ben's memory of that experience? Why is this memory presented in such detail? What influence did the Army surgeon have on Ben? Q> In his Quincy motel room, Ben opens the Gideon Bible to the Book of Job and reads the verses that begin, "Days of affliction have taken hold upon me." And, on the bus to Wenatchee, he refers to Don Quixote as "Knight of the Mournful Countenance." Are the correspondences implied by these references justified? In what ways might Ben be compared to Job and Don Quixote? What other biblical and literary references occur, and what are their relevance? Q> Sitting in the restaurant with Emilio, Ben decides that "the life of the boy-of anyone-was a life, in the end, and no mere story to be told across the table. The essentials could not be culled from the rest without divesting both certain meanings." What bearing might this realization have on our acceptance of the story of Ben's life? Copyright (c) 2000. Published in the U.S. by Harcourt, Inc. Questions and author biography written by Hal Hager & Associates, Somerville, New Jersey

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carolandandys, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by carolandandys)
David Guterson is one of my favorite writers. The fact that his stories are centered in my beautiful home state of Washington makes almost feel as if they are my stories. I love his troubled characters and the way that the physical geography seems to echo a psychological geography of the soul. As the story of East of the Mountain unfolds, I found myself increasingly drawn to the main character and hoping and praying for a good outcome to a most challenging dilemma.

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ebaker, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by ebaker)
This book had a powerful impact for me.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
LuAnn, January 23, 2008 (view all comments by LuAnn)
The setting for this book is in my stomping grounds -- "East of the Mountains" of Washington state. Add to that the fact that it is written by David Guterson, one of my favorite authors, and how could I not love this book! Guterson tells the story of a man who is in the last stages of his life. Ben Givens is dying of colon cancer and wants to spare his daughter the burden of watching his agony. He decides to commit suicide, yet his plan is to make it look like a hunting accident. He travels east of the mountains to where he grew up. His plans are continually waylaid as he runs into one road block after another. Does he finally carry out this last act? I'll never tell. You'll have to read this excellent and touching story for yourself to find out. I, for one, will see this beautiful country I call home differently from now on.
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Product Details

Guterson, David
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
New York :
Adventure stories
Psychological fiction
Aged men
Seattle (Wash.) Fiction.
Hunting accidents.
Hunting accidents -- Fiction.
General Fiction
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
8 x 5.31 in

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » History and Social Science
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Pacific Northwest » Literature Folklore and Memoirs

East of the Mountains 1ST Edition Used Hardcover
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$5.50 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Harcourt - English 9780151002290 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
Ben Givens is a retired heart surgeon who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Deciding to take charge of his own demise, Ben travels into the wild country of Washington state with his two dogs and his father's Winchester, to hunt one last time and then to end his life on his own terms. But, as with all quests, the Fates intervene. A car wreck introduces him to various helpers and hindrances, and gradually Ben undertakes a journey back through his own past. As he nears the apple-growing country in which he grew up, he recalls the signal events of his youth and manhood-especially his wartime experiences and his profound love for his wife of fifty years. Ben is transformed into an American Odysseus as he confronts the many sides of his own nature in a novel that radiates with the glories of the natural world and the mysterious permutations of the human heart.

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