East of the Mountains is a novel of lush beauty, set in the deserts and mountains of eastern Washington state. Ben Givens, a cardiac surgeon, is diagnosed with terminal colon cancer at the age of 73. Faced with a drawn out death, and still grieving for his dead wife, Ben packs up his car along with his two hunting dogs and heads to the land of his birth for a final hunting trip. Deep in apple orchard country, amidst the deserts and mountains of Washington, Ben contemplates ending his life. He remembers the years of his childhood amid the apples, the War where he served in a mountain fighting unit, and the idyllic years of his marriage.
Guterson’s skill at using natural settings to emphasis internal conflict is great. The novel covers a period of only a few days, but Ben’s journey covers a lifetime.
A thoughtful, provocative novel of immense beauty – this is one I can recommend.