The Other

The Other

by David Guterson


$14.40 $16.00 Save 10% Current price is $14.4, Original price is $16. You Save 10%. View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, July 25


From the author of the bestselling Snow Falling on Cedars, a coming-of-age novel that presents two powerfully different visions of what it means to live a good life and the compromises that come with fulfillment.

John William Barry and Neil Countryman shared a love of the outdoors, trekking often into Washington's remote backcountry where they had to rely on their wits—and each other—to survive. Soon after graduating from college, Neil sets out on a path that will lead him toward a life as a devoted schoolteacher and family man. But John William makes a radically different choice, dropping out of college and moving deep into the woods. When he enlists Neil to help him disappear completely, Neil finds himself drawn into a web of agonizing responsibility, deceit, and tragedy—one that will finally break open with a wholly unexpected, life-altering revelation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307274816
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/02/2009
Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 271,586
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.83(d)

About the Author

David Guterson is the author of five novels: Snow Falling on Cedars, which won the PEN/Faulkner and the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award; East of the Mountains; Our Lady of the Forest, New York TimesNotable Book and a Los Angeles Times and Seattle Post- Intelligencer Best Book of the Year; The Other; and Ed King. He is also the author of a previous story collection,The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind; a poetry collection, Songs for a Summons; and two works of nonfiction, Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense and Descent: A Memoir of Madness. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he lives in Washington State.


Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound

Date of Birth:

May 4, 1956

Place of Birth:

Seattle, Washington


M.A., University of Washington

Read an Excerpt

No Escape from the Unhappiness MachineI attended Roosevelt (the Teddies, Teds, or Roughriders), a public high school in North Seattle, while my friend John William Barry was a student at Lakeside, our city’s version of an East Coast private academy like Phillips Exeter or Deerfield. Besides slumping at my desk all day and getting high in Cowen Park at lunch, I also ran the 880—today called the eight-hundred-meter or the half-mile—for the RHS track team. It was a good niche for me. You didn’t need to be fast or have the wind of the distance runner. Mostly what you needed was a willingness to sign up. As a sophomore in 1972, I was a good enough half-miler to represent RHS with a time of 2:11.24. To put this in context, the world record in ’72 for the half-mile was held by Dave Wottle, with a time of 1:44.30. Roosevelt’s best half-miler of all time is Chris Vasquez, ’97, at 2:01.23. This is a race that takes runners twice around the red cinder oval found behind many high schools—I say this so you can imagine me losing to Vasquez by about thirty yards, or think of me still rounding the last bend, at the far end of the grandstands, while Wottle is crossing the finish line, arms raised victoriously. Either is a useful picture of me—of someone intimate with the middle of the pack. There’s good and bad in that.I remember one race more vividly than others. It’s ’72, so Nixon is president, though he and everything else, the world, seem far away from Seattle. I’m sixteen and wear my hair like Peter Frampton’s and a mustache like Steve Prefontaine’s. (Because of this mustache, I’m sometimes referred to at school as “the Turk,” after the guy in the Camel cigarette ads. I’m not Turkish, but my mother’s father, whom I never met, was what people call Black Irish, and possibly I inherited his coloring.) I’ve got on hi-cut satin shorts and a satin jersey emblazoned with Roughriders, and I’m at the starting line along with seven other runners, six with better qualifying times than mine. Despite them, I’m a believer that if the ninety-nine-pound mother in the apocryphal story can lift the front end of a Volkswagen off her crushed toddler, I can win today.I’ll dispense with the obligation to describe the weather—whether or not it was a sultry afternoon, with clouds of newly hatched mayflies above the track, or a windless May day smelling of moist turf and mown grass, is beside the point—and cut, literally, to in medias res: the eight of us stalwart and tortured young runners rounding the third curve of a high-school track and coming up on 250 yards. It’s my usual MO—out front early and counting on adrenaline to keep me there, but with heels nipped and a sinking feeling that’s anathema to winning. A race is a conversation with yourself, motivational in quality, until somebody interrupts by pulling away from you, and then it becomes an exercise in fathoming limits. Losing is like knowing that, in the movie scene where a thousand die but the hero lives, you’re one of the obliterated.The right track term is “running in a pack.” That’s us—a band of runners hardly separated. One keeps exhaling humidly on my shoulders. Another’s left forearm hits my right elbow on its backswing. A runner pulls up beside me—the way a freeway driver pulls even in the adjacent lane to take your pulse—and I assess his chances with a panicked glance. Not strictured yet; striding with more ease than I feel; biding his time; relaxed. Working up a freshly adrenalized surge, I gain a quarter-step on him, but purchased with the last of my reserves.The early leader in a half-mile race rarely crosses the finish line first. But he wants to have had the experience of leading—that’s part of it—and he’s perennially hopeful that, this time, things will be different in the home stretch. I still feel that way in the early part of curve three: that I might have heretofore undiscovered deposits of leg strength and cardiovascular capacity, not to mention will, at my disposal, all this against the grain of my foreboding. It turns out that my foreboding makes sense; at the curve’s apogee, I know I’ll flag, and with that, the flagging happens. Three runners pass me, going strong.I’m needled by regret. Why don’t I have a better strategy than running as fast as I can from start to finish? I’ve squandered my energy; I’ve incurred too large a deficit. But it isn’t in me to plan; I just run, as my coach says, on unfocused emotion. These other runners, by the halfway mark—end of lap one, where we’re lashed on by friends and exhorted by teammates, a small fire zone of screaming and technical advice—are just stretching out and finding a rhythm, while I’m already in a battle with depletion. I drop to sixth, dragging with me a familiar sense of failure.Then, on the back stretch, the runner in seventh tries to pass me, too. To anybody watching we’re in a pointless and even pathetic battle between losers, but for me what’s happening feels critical. Against good tactical judgment—it’s a move that slows you—I indulge in another assessment of an opponent: like me, long-haired; like me, in earnest; like me, goaded forward by, the word might be, convictions. In other words, this runner is approximately my doppelgänger.Ask any track coach. The half-mile is a race for unadulterated masochists. Neither a sprint nor a distance event, it has the worst qualities of both. It’s not a glorious race, either. A lot of people can name a sprinter or two—Carl Lewis, for example—or a famous miler like Roger Bannister, but can very many name even a single half-miler? No athletic romance attaches to the half-mile. It’s not a legendary or even notable feat to beat other runners over 880 yards. At track meets, the half-mile contest is somehow lost between more compelling competitions, an event that unfolds while fans thumb their programs or use the bathroom. Into this gap of a race, this sideshow, step runners in search of a deeper agony than they can find elsewhere. They want to do battle with suffering itself. It’s the trauma they want, the anguished ordeal. It’s the approximately two minutes of self-mortification or private crucifixion. All half-milers have a similar love of pain. So this race is an intimation and an opening. In two minutes’ time, you get a glimpse.I do, on the afternoon I’m telling about. There’s a kind of synchronicity that can happen in a running race, and it happens now. We run in tandem, my near doppelgänger and I. In running parlance, we match strides. I’m measuring him, as he, no doubt, is measuring me—all the while throwing ourselves forward into fresh pain, so that there are two perceptions, pain and the close presence of another agonized half-miler. In parallel this way, and canceling each other out, we’re neither of us ahead or behind for maybe forty-five seconds. That’s an unusually long time to run neck and neck in the 880. I’m oxygen-deprived, so everything looks well lit and startling, and from this perspective I see what I probably wouldn’t see otherwise. This guy, right here, running next to me, is a version of me. We both feel, romantically, that our running is transcendent. How do I know this? From running alongside him. I also have the benefit of hindsight.Thirty-four years have passed, but I still remember how, in the final five yards, my double frees himself—like a shadow in a cartoon or a mirror-figure in a dream—and beats me by three-quarters of a stride.I’m bent over and spent, my hands on my knees after the race, breathing hoarsely and looking at the ground, when he comes over to shake my hand with what I think at first is a grating sincerity. The grip is vigorous. The expression is heartfelt and, post-race, ruddy. The stance is upright, the posture exclamatory. This is gracious victory personified, and for a moment I think—it says Lakeside on his jersey—that what I’m seeing is obligatory patrician good manners, a valorous lad with his cursory and vapid Victorian Well done! while his heaving breath subsides. But no. He’s just fiercely putting forward what he feels—he’s honest. There’s a sentiment to be noted, life is short, and he doesn’t want to just pass by. “Thanks for the push,” John William declares, between bouts of sucking wind. “I just about died.”That’s how I met the privileged boy who would later become “the hermit of the Hoh”—as he’s been called by the Seattle newspapers this spring, in articles mentioning my name, too—that loner who lived in the woods for seven years and who bequeathed me four hundred and forty million dollars....My name’s Neil Countryman. I was born in this city of wet, high-tech hubris, which was called, at first, maybe with derision, “New York Alki,” meaning “New York Pretty Soon” in Duwamps. Besides me, there are seventeen Countrymans in the Seattle phone book, and all of them are my relatives—my father’s two brothers; their sons, grandsons, and unmarried granddaughters; and my two sons. We’re close-knit, as we sometimes say about ourselves. Over the years, we’ve closed ranks around deaths, accidents, follies, and addictions. On the other hand, we shy away from intimacy as if such shyness was a value. We don’t ask each other the more difficult questions. I’m generalizing, of course, but a Countryman who wants to go his own way will find, among his relatives—universally on the male side—straight-faced if sometimes dishonest approval. Clannish as we are, we believe in privacy, even when it’s obvious that someone you love is making a terrible mistake.As a boy I enjoyed, with my sister, Carol, Laugh-In, Get Smart, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. We lived in a ranch house in the northeast part of town, modern for its time and built by my father, with an intercom system my mother used to call Carol and me from the rec room. My family went on summer vacations in-state, sometimes to Ocean Shores, but always to Soap Lake, in the sagebrush interior, where we would join other Cavanaughs—my mother was a Cavanaugh—for an annual rendezvous. At Soap Lake, my mother liked to loll around on a blow-up mattress and drink Tab. Once, I lost a beach ball in the wind, and by the time I noticed, it was a quarter-mile out. My mother brought it back, breathing hard but looking athletic. I remember how surprised I was, when I was eight, to see her so competent on a pair of skis at Alpental. I was under the impression that we’d gone to Alpental so that Carol and I could slide down a hill on inner tubes while our parents stood around with their hands in their pockets, but instead my mother, on rentals, disappeared up a chairlift and materialized much later to spray snow at my father with a stylish hockey stop. My father brushed off the snow as if it was lint on a tuxedo, which was his idea of humor. He was compact, with a recessed hairline and long sideburns, tight-lipped when corrected, and famous among my cousins for his forearms, which bulged like bowling pins. I remember him stretched out on the Cavanaughs’ steep roof after it was damaged by a fallen tree, his head downslope, a hammer between his teeth, reaching with his left hand to start a nail by stabbing it into a rafter until it stuck there. My father was a finish carpenter first, but he was also a pack rat. He brought home, from his jobs, used refrigerators and freezers, washers and dryers, coils of plastic pipe, and rolls of scavenged wire, and stored it all in our backyard under an open-air shed he’d built out of salvaged materials. When he got older, he drove a Corolla, but he didn’t listen to its radio very much, because, as he said, it was more interesting to listen to its motor. He also felt it was useful to smoke a Camel before heading for the bathroom. When I asked him if he got bored in there, he told me he read the Post-Intelligencer, starting with the obits, first to see if anyone he knew had “kicked,” second to mull the ages of the deceased in relation to his own years, so that he’d remember not to feel sorry for himself.For a while, my mother sang with the Merry Mavericks—about a dozen men and women with a Peter, Paul and Mary look but an Up with People sound. They performed at Christmas in the Food Circus at the Seattle Center. My mother was a soloist. Hitting her high notes, she sounded like Judy Garland. I remember her coming off the stage dressed in red-and-green satin and taking Carol and me across the food court for caramel corn. Carol and I were glad when all of this was over, because we only liked pop tunes. In fact, the first album I bought, the summer after eighth grade, was Bread’s On the Waters, because “Make It with You,” sung by David Gates in falsetto, moved me. In wood shop, I built speaker cabinets out of low-grade walnut, then installed tweeters, woofers, and de rigueur large woofers from SpeakerLab. I traded a cousin some speakers like this for a battered drum set, and he showed me how to play the opening licks, complete with cowbell, of “Honky Tonk Woman.” For two years, I washed dishes at a Mexican restaurant for $2.65 an hour, partly to fund drum lessons from a burned-out but still-hip jazzman. I kept a fish tank in my room, went bowling sporadically, and played hockey on roller skates. I had a normal interest in girls, which I admit is a declaration dispensing with the subject, so I will add that I was the sort of hapless boy who came away from cheap encounters with the blues.John William and I were of the generation that was slightly late for the zeal of the sixties and slightly early for disco. The most popular song, I think, in ’74, was “Takin’ Care of Business” by the Bachman-Turner Overdrive, though the Doobie Brothers were also esteemed. In Seattle, white guys wore flares, shags, and Pacific Trail jackets; white girls wore sailor pants or 501 jeans and let their hair fall around their faces. We were seven when JFK was killed, twelve when King was killed, and fourteen when four students were killed at Kent State, but by the time we were old enough to fathom “the Zeitgeist” (a term getting play in ’74), there was détente, H-bomb drills were quaint, and there was no more draft. Always on the front page of the Seattle Times was inexplicable news, for a teen-ager, of tariffs and wage and price controls. Who cared? Gerald Ford became president in ’74 and began hitting people with golf balls, apparently, thousands of miles away from Seattle. Everything, in fact, was thousands of miles away from Seattle. It was the portal to the North Pacific. It was where you outfitted to travel in Alaska, gateway to the Last Frontier.

Reading Group Guide

“Gorgeous, haunting. . . . A deeply considered tragedy of social alienation and hubris.”
The Washington Post Book World

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your group's discussion of David Guterson's The Other. The story of a young man who chooses to live in isolation in Washington State's Cascade Mountains—told by his closest friend—it is a moving exploration of the clash between personal ideals and moral responsibility, the demands of friendship and the price of honoring them.

1. Neil describes John William at sixteen as “the rich kid who hates and loves himself equally. The contrarian who hears his conscience calling in the same way schizophrenics hear voices, so that, for him, there's no not listening” [p. 10]. Have you encountered people like John William in your own life? In literature? What makes him a believable character, rather than a stereotype?

2. Does Neil also represent a familiar type or character? What makes him interesting or appealing to you? To John William? What distinctive characteristics (strengths and flaws alike) inform the way he tells John William's story? Consider the qualities that Neil admires in John William in contrast to how he describes himself.

3. Neil and John William are brought together by their love of the outdoors and in particular for hiking in unmapped areas. Does John William spur Neil to take risks he otherwise would avoid? What aspects of their feelings about risk come to light when they get lost in the forest [pp. 29-34]? In what ways do their attitudes about the adventure echo their feelings about their lives in general?

4. To what extent do John William's activities at Reed [pp. 70-83] as well as his decision to drop out of college reflect the cultural and social milieu of the 1970s? Does Cindy's rejection of him mark a significant turning point for John William, or does it simply reinforce his perceptions of the world?

5. How does his upbringing affect John William? Would he have turned out differently if Ginnie had remained with the family? Does her decision to leave make her the villain of the story? Are there aspects of her conduct that evoke your empathy or sympathy? Is Rand oblivious or indifferent to his son's problems or is he incapable of dealing with them? How do Neil's portraits of them change and deepen as the novel unfolds? Does he become more accepting of the Barrys' flaws, and if so, why?

6. Throughout The Other, there are references to gnosticism, a philosophical and religious movement that emerged during the early Christian era. A central theme of its teaching is that the world is imperfect, but each of us has a divine spark within that can ultimately free us from the evils of the material world. Does John William's obsession with gnosticism enhance your understanding of his motivations and behavior? What other references to literature and philosophy in the novel illuminate the themes Guterson is exploring? Discuss, for example, the references to Emily Dickinson and Thoreau [p. 86], to Robert Frost [passim], and to Rudyard Kipling's “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat” [p. 167].

7. What effect does Neil achieve by alternating accounts of his own experiences with his reports on John William? How do their encounters as they grow older illustrate Neil's contention that “in a friendship, you don't so much change terms as observe terms changing” [p.112]?

8. How do you feel about Neil's complicity in enabling John William to escape from the real world? What moral imperatives underlie his actions? Is he guilty of betraying the fundamental ethical obligations he has as a member of society?

9. In his course, Nature in Literature, Neil tells his students, “poetry and nature are occasions for introspection, but not necessarily for happiness” [p. 28]. Is John William seduced by a naïve, romantic view of the relationship between man and nature? Is he prepared for life in the wilderness? What does he learn about his strengths and limitations as he struggles with nature's unpredictable, difficult, and often cruel challenges?

10. Does his flight from civilization bring John William the spiritual purity he is searching for? Could he have found another way to express his antipathy to the hypocrisy he sees in the ordinary world? Do you think that he knowingly set out on a path to self-destruction?

11. Is the relationship between Neil and John William a healthy one? What emotional satisfaction does it provide for each of them? Does Neil's role in John William's life influence his behavior as husband, father, and teacher?

12. Was Neil ultimately right to keep John William's secret for so long? How do you think John William's mother and father would answer?

13. Neil writes, “In the newspaper reports on the hermit of the Hoh, an abiding derangement is the heart of the matter. That's wrong” [p. 112]. Does Neil's account of what happens to John William justify this point of view? Would a more objective observer draw the same conclusion from the evidence Neil provides?

14. How does The Other compare to other accounts, either fiction or nonfiction, about people who have exiled themselves from society? If you have read Into the Wild (or have seen the movie), what similarities do you see between John William and Chris McCandless? Discuss the diverse reasons, either rational or not, a person might have for abandoning a comfortable life for one filled with risk and danger. Discuss how Guterson's decision to tell such a story in the form of a novel differs from Krakauer's nonfiction approach.

15. This is a book chiefly about a friendship between two boys, yet in many ways the women they love shape the men they become. What roles do the women in the novel—Neil's mother, who dies when he is in high school; John William's mother, who abandons him when he is still a child; Neil's loving and supportive wife; and John William's college girlfriend—play in the lives of the two main characters?

16. How does inheriting John William's money change things for Neil—if it does at all? Do you think that it is inheriting the money that allows Neil to finally devote himself to writing, or is it the chance to get John William's story off his chest? Would John William want a book written about him? Is Neil exploiting his friend in any way?


The questions, discussion topics, and suggested reading list that follow are intended to enhance your group’s discussion of David Guterson’s The Other. The story of a young man who chooses to live in isolation in Washington State’s Cascade Mountains–told by his closest friend–it is a moving exploration of the clash between personal ideals and moral responsibility, the demands of friendship and the price of honoring them.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Other 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Other is about John William Worthington Berry who isn¿t comfortable living in any world and because of this discomfort he is obsessed with death and living off the grid. John Twelve Hawks describes living off the grid superbly in his book ¿The Traveler¿. At sixteen John William meets Neil Countryman and together they explore their intensity and love for the outdoors. Berry drops out of college leaving the wealth of his family behind and becomes a hermit¿he craves out a cave and lives in it. Countryman becomes a teacher, gets married, and starts a family. The friendship is a true friendship yet it¿s a love-hate relationship. John considers Neil a sell-out and Neil feels enough is enough and spends years trying to talk John back into the world. As the story unfolds we learn how John William developed his way of thinking. The Other, for me, was not an easy read but an enjoyable one. After reading a chapter or two I had to pick up other books just to shake off its darkness. I believe readers who are interested in psychology or anthropology will enjoy The Other because it¿ll get their minds going. I wouldn¿t be surprised if The Other becomes required reading for students.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love books of nature and I went into this book with great expectations. Although some parts were brilliant and detailed very well, a lot of the book comes across as filler and have nothing to do with the plot. If you read a lot of books you will learn quickly what to skip and what matters in this novel. 256 pages were 56 pages too many.
HistoryWes More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed Snow Falling on Cedars but not this one.
sunnydrk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I turned to this book based on a positive review. Unfortunately, I found the author long winded and the storyline less than intriguing. Unusual for me, this book took me almost 2 months to read as it was just a complete drugery to get through. That being said, I believe I missed a lot of the finer details as I just couldn't "get into it". The one positive of the book was the scenic descriptions. He was able to convey the beauty and remoteness of many areas in the Pacific Northwest.
scarpettajunkie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Other by David Guterson is a work of fiction that treads the fine line to believability. It is just possible someone exists that has done what John has done. It is very likely. The Other is written from the perspective of Neil Countryman who is a want-to-be author and full-time school teacher and family man. He is best friends with John William Barry who was born with a silver spoon. These two dissimilar men share a love of the wilderness. A connection is formed and built upon to the extent that John asks Neil to help him disappear into the wilderness. Thus starts this story of lies, responsibility, and ultimately tragedy. I liked this story because it does remind me of people I know. Page by page the friendship and adventures of Neil and John develop and along with this is the sense of understanding of John. You can see John¿s way of thinking and the reasoning is laid out. While I may not have agreed, I understood. I liked the idea of inherited riches. Would you change your life if you could? How do you cope with a fortune placed at your feet? Where do you think your responsibilities lie? This story made good use of curiosity. I had to turn the pages to see if John was a survivor or if he was going to throw in the towel. It is completely fascinating to see how John progresses in self-sufficiency. How Neil is affected by John¿s decisions also kept the pages turning. I would highly recommend The Other by David Guterson. It is a case study of the psyche and lays out some interesting moral questions. It is a page turner that will make you think long after the last page is read. I enjoyed it and feel enlightened. It is not a book to be passed over.
aklnbrg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Other has a lot of details about Seattle and the Pacific Northwest region. Set from the late fifties and onward, with a focuss on the 1970's the story creates a strong bond between the author and a middle aged reader who grew up in Seattle during those years. There are numberous references to places and business from the time, many of which probably don't even exist anymore. The "Last Exit" comes to mind. Conspicuously missisng is any refernece to the world fair and the erruption of Mt. St. Helens. Why not throw a bone to the non-local reader just to give him some feeling of belonging to the story?The main character is really boring, I suppose what most people would imagine someone who lived his whole life in Seattle to be. But the lack of color in the main character-narrator didn't detract in my eyes. The author certainly knows how to add color and passion to his characters and presumably purposely deprived this one if any in order to make room for the other more remarkable characters. (To be continued with a discussion of the plot.)
rupera on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
slow moving and dull
doggonelaura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Many reviewers found this novel a little long or long winded. I loved it for that reason. I liked the idea that Neil used his journals to tell his story¿the detail felt real (something an ordinary person like me could have written). Here¿s a `boring¿ school teacher, living a very real and ordinary life in a very satisfying way. He loves his wife, he loves teaching, yet then, he has this secret friend, and then a bigger secret. What is mental ¿health¿? Is John William `sick¿? I loved the narration of Neil¿s basically ordinary life with the stories of John William¿s hermit life interwoven and contrasted. Part of my enjoyment may have been that I¿m approximately the same age and went to school in Oregon¿I could totally relate to the setting and characters. I liked the idea that Neil used his journals to tell his story¿the detail felt real (something an ordinary person like me could have written).
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
[The Other] by David Guterson not only didn't make the 'read it again' list, it hardly made the finish line. While I loved his [Snow falling on cedars] this one did nothing for me and I had to struggle to finish it. I usually have a 50 page rule, but since I had bought this book new, for some unknown reason, I felt I had to slog thru it. I may take it up again in a couple years to see if I have a different opinion. What's so awful is that I can't even remember why I didn't like it, except that I seem to remember characters i couldn't relate to and a plot I couldn't find.
brianinbuffalo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this work. The characters came to life in beautifully written prose, and the story held my interest until the end. Guterson's book weaves numerous elements into a seamless narrative, including wilderness survival, life in Seattle and the complexities of friendship.
kylenapoli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hard to put down. The degree to which Guterson captures life in Seattle during these years, the Pacific Northwest wilderness, and a certain kind of extreme intellectualism well known at Reed College, while not surprising, is remarkable. The narrator, Neil Countryman is able to peer deeply into his own life and the lives of those around him -- catching the details, seeing strengths and weakness, finding clarity and mystery in equal measure.
pdebolt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really had looked forward to reading this book because I was so enthralled with "Snow Falling On Cedars." I found it very difficult to get into this book and then couldn't really connect with the characters or care what happened to them. There is an inordinate amount of pedantic musing that I found irritating. It was, for me, a disappointment.
MeganAndJustin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in 1970s to 1990s Seattle and Puget Sound wilderness, another beautiful novel by Guterson. A difficult novel to characterize. Though at first glance it seems to be about a friendship, it grows into a statement about how separate we all are, but the separation is expressed without despair.
SugarCreekRanch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Quit at page 119. Very slow moving. I enjoyed Snow Falling on Cedars and Our Lady of the Forest, but just could not get into this one.
ddirmeyer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wanted to like this book. I remember liking Snow Falling on Cedars so I looked forward to this novel. I found it to be boring and almost impossible to read. I kept looking for one character I could like - just anyone with some redeeming features that I could care about what would happen to them. I was unable to find one. Guterson tells us from the beginning how his story will end, so there is really no suspense to keep the pages turning. I would not recommend this book.
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story of the hermit John William and his friend Neil Countryman, to whom he leaves $440,000,000. They become friends at a high school track meet and spend years, on and off, in the Cascade Mountains. Eventually, John William gets rid of his car and lives in a cave deep in the wilderness on the Hoh River. Neil brings him food, books and other vital things but after breaking his ankle, isn't able to get out there for 11 weeks. When he does, John William is dead, seemingly after a fall. Neil wraps him in cedar bark and leaves him in the cave following a burial ritual of the Hoh tribe. Twenty two years later John William's remains are found and Neil is unidentified because his name is found in the books left in the cave. A lawyer contacts him to announce his good fortune. Great read! Almost as good as his masterpiece, "Snow Falling on Cedars."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seeing the transformation John makes as he lives amongst the wild out doors is fantastic. Not Guterson's best work, but still a great read.
Zenbion More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love David's writing style. He paints a vivid picture that evokes meories and emotions long forgotten. I felt like I was on the journey with the writer telling a true story. Unfortunately the story didn't really pay-off for me. A lot of time was spent filling in the back story in the second half of the book, but by the time we got there I still didn't completely understand either of the main characters motivations. It became just another bizarre intimate look at a life. Interesting - just not fulfilling of the promise. Maybe I missed the point.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
We talked about unreliable narrators in our writing group a little while ago, and even tried an exercise using an unreliable point of view. Afterwards I tried to think of books that might illustrate the technique. Though I couldn't remember particular ones, I knew I'd read passages, maybe even whole books, written from the point of view of a self-absorbed beauty who thinks everyone loves her, a nervous investigator who thinks he'll never succeed, a religious preacher who's totally convinced of his own point of view. but I couldn't recall reading any literary fiction where the unreliable narrator told the whole tale. Then I read The Other, by David Guterson. I love Snow Falling on Cedars and Our Lady of the Forest, so I was expecting to find The Other would be similarly delightful. Instead I found something that read much more slowly and didactically, and a narrator who seems to totally miss the cues of normal human interaction. For a while, the story carries the narration. The detailed references to recent history and culture are fascinating. The scenery of Washington's backcountry is beautifully rendered. And the mysterious John William is sufficiently odd that we want to know what has happened / will happen to him. But it's when the narrator meets his future wife that the turning point is reached. Do we want to read more from this strange point of view-the details certainly entice-or do we simply not believe the story anymore? At this point, Neil Countryman, narrator, becomes something different from the everyman we might have imagined. His point of view is consistently odd, his loyalty prodigious, his diligent observation truly intriguing, but his assumptions about the thoughts and behavior of others almost deliberately miss the mark. The scenery's stunning. The forest is alive. The characters are real and wonderful-yes even Neil. And the story is one that stays after the last page is read, leaving readers to wonder, just what was it about Neal that drew them in, in spite of disbelief, and which person is the "other" of the title, tragic John or incurious Neal? I might not have finished the book were it not our book group's choice for last month. But I'm very glad I did. It's a slow, fascinating, absorbing read, with a perfectly rendered narrator who's wholly reliable and true to himself, but beautifully illustrates the power of unreliable narration. Disclosure: I bought this book in a bookstore because we'd chosen it for our group to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although Guterson can be a bit wordy at times, and there were parts of the novel that can be skimmed, overall this was an excellent read from an eloquent writer. Readers will find a little bit of John William in themselves. His dissatifaction with the world and its materialism is at the forefront of current events today and gives the reader a lot of food for thought. Neil Countryman is provides a better representation of the average Joe and most readers will easily identify with him. He proves how easy it is to get sucked into the "American dream" of home ownership, a wife, two kids, and a car, which often causes people to leave behind the industrious dreams of their youth. John William is the oposite of this picture and escapes from it into what becomes insanity. Ultimately, the reader is left to decide who "The Other" really is. Is it John William, who chooses to live his life on his own terms? Or is it Neil, who chooses to live in "hamburger world", just like the rest of us? Perhpas the real answer is that we are all "The Other", as we only know ourselves in a superficial manner, which is at the crux of John William's turmoil.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SaundraWSchulhofPhD More than 1 year ago
The reader's first realization is that one would not like to be like any character in this book. The second "ah ha" moment comes in the days after finishing the book when the reader admits he/she is all too much like each of the flawed characters, and is forced to agree with the protagonist that whatever most of us are doing with our lives, perhaps we should be doing "something else," even if the choices he makes are not the ones most of us would care to select. The question remains, "What then would be a better way to spend one's time on this planet?" The author has the last laugh when the reader sees that he/she has not been reading about some "other" characters, but about himself/herself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago