An Old Man's Journey
The novel East of the Mountains by David Guterson is not about a boy or alien but an "old" man's struggle with terminal colon cancer. "Suicide was at odds with the life he knew, at odds with all he understood, of himself and of the world"(58). An old and retired heart surgeon, Ben Givens seeks to put all of his memories behind him and commit suicide. His plan was to hang himself and make it appear as if it was accidental. Since, the novel was 277 pages long, it was apparent that suicide was not going to come easy. Ben's chance encounters are not coincidences but events used for convincing Ben to reconsider suicide. The novel was exceptional because it examines the value of human life, explores the beauty of the eastern landscape and studies the relationship between humans and nature.
One of the things that made East of the Mountains so great was the way David Guterson emphasized the value of human life.
Guterson relayed messages to Ben Givens through chance encounters. When Ben Givens was driving on the roads of the Colombia Basins, he struggled with his dogs trying to get them to cooperate and as he turned his shoulders the car slips off the road and smashed a tree. A couple of young lovers came along and helped Ben with his injuries. Anyway, the two young lovers reminded him of his wife and would say "we're soul mates forever" (23). Since, this encounter reminded him of his wife and the message of "we're soul mates forever" from the lovers, it posed a question into Ben's mind of suicide. Another situation where a chance encounter occurs is when Ben finally goes east of the mountains and one of his dogs Rex gets...