BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Other by David Guterson

OtherI could cry over The Other. And not tears of the ‘I’m so gratefully happy’-variety, alas; I’m talking truly disappointed waterworks.

David Guterson writes quietly wrenching novels, including his bestselling Snow Falling on Cedars, and later East of the Mountains, which I actually found more effecting. The Other, too, could be described as quietly wrenching … but it’s also tediously neverending. Sniffle sniffle.

Neil Countryman and John William Barry meet in 1972 on the high school track when John William narrowly beats Neil in a half-mile race. Raised in two different worlds – working class Countrymans, old-money established Barrys – the two unlikely friends will wander in and out of each other’s rather disparate lives.

More than three decades later, John William dies alone, having spent his final seven years living in a Washington wilderness cave, his solitude broken only by Neil’s provision-bearing visits. On page 6 of the novel, Neil – now a husband, father, English teacher, unpublished novelist – unexpectedly inherits John Williams’ $440 million. He spends the next 250 page trying to figure out what happened and why, re-examining, re-envisioning his relationship with his enigmatic friend.

Numerous plausible elements for a memorable story are definitely here … and perhaps therein lies the problem. So much seems promising – the traumatic long-term consequences of dysfunctional families, the hypocrisies of the overprivileged, the debilitating effects of easy money, the abandonment of so-called civilization for a purer life, etc. etc. – that the end result too soon devolves into predictably flat, clichéd repetition.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2008


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