Discovering a new writer is like making a new friend. I knew nothing of David Guterson until I read Snow Falling on Cedars a few years ago. Now, after completing his earlier novel East of the Mountains, I wish we’d met a long time ago.
The story is a simple one. Ben Givens, a retired doctor, decides to take a final journey to the land of his youth, rather than stay home and fight his incurable cancer. Accompanied by his two dogs, he heads eastward across Washington State. At this point you’d expect a series of life story flashbacks, but Guterson gives us much more: a tour of the fruit-growing landscape that defined his youth, and which still provides a livelihood for the marginalized people of this world.
Character is vital to the success of a novel, and Guterson introduces us to many: a friendly young couple whose life together is just beginning; a hard-hearted coyote hunter; a kind truck driver; a small-town veterinarian; and a trio of Hispanic fruit pickers, one of whom is desperately ill.
We also meet the people and experience the events that shaped Ben’s youth and set him on the road to his profession. I’ve rarely read a more gripping passage than the one describing Ben’s assistance to an Army surgeon during World War II. That alone is worth the price of the book.
All these people and events combine to change the course of Ben’s journey. It’s a trip well worth taking, and I’m thankful to David Guterson for inviting me along.
Update on The Seven-Day Resurrection: My work on this novel is still in progress, but I hope to have it published within the next few months. If you’d like to be notified when it’s ready, please go to the Contact page of this website and fill out the form. For a summary of the novel, check the Novels page.