Years ago I read this novel. Its encyclopedic details about hiking and camping in the Cascades in Washington State are still vivid in my mind. Plus, its plot twists and turns about John William Barry's vast wealth ending up in the hands of the novel's main character--well, I found this intriguing. David Guterson's fiction is set in the Pacific Northwest, but he's not a regional writer. He's sort of a white-collar all-American Raymond Carver, and his books have reached readers from Bangor to Seattle.
Oh, Wow! What a provocative read! Set from 1972 to 2006 it portrays the strong bond and events occurring in the two main characters lives. Page 5&6 describe how they met as well as Neil Countryman's character; John William Barry's is more obscure. At one point, although I guessed at what was coming' I closed my eyes (looking at the little red designs behind my lids) while feeling grief and loss. I had to check to make sure this wasn't a memoir as it would be too awful to endure. Neil's European trip had a bit too much detail but otherwise this book is so well written. Survival skills and aesthetic terrain in northern Washington State are well described. There is a question of how much impact drug use had on either friend's ability to responsibly choose what to do during crisis. At one point it appears Neil's friendship with John is more important to Neil than John's safety but this is not static and Neil's guilty grief causes actions John ( Buddist minded) may not have approved of. On page 248 one professed friend, speaking of insanity, said of John that he was simply passionate about the right things. Descriptive vocabulary, evocative poetry and surprising psychological revelations make this a superb read.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Guterson told a very engaging story. As soon as I finished it, I immediately told all my friends to read it.
Guterson can't seem to write anything worth reading since the engaging and wildly successful SFOC. After a promising beginning (certainly a decent enough idea for a story), it begins to sloooow down and meander into meaninglessness. I stopped reading about one-third of the way through. The other reviews here are spot on. It's self-absorbed, rambling ("pedantic musing"), and, except for moments here and there, absolutely uninteresting. What a shame.
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