Posted by Merry Mao on June 11th, 2008
Author: David Guterson
Summary: David Guterson, the author of the PEN/Faulkner-winning Snow Falling on Cedars, has written an exquisite story about a transcendent friendship between two very different men. John William Barry and Neil Countryman cross paths at a high school track event, and that chance meeting connects them for the rest of their lives. While Neil comes from a modest background and leads a modest life, John William is a child of privilege and wealth. Together the two share their love of hiking and the outdoors – we are treated to some beautifully written passages describing the wilds of the Pacific Northwest – and share a bond, a literal blood oath, that is unbreakable, even as their lives continue in seemingly opposite directions. Neil becomes a teacher, marries and has a family, but John William retreats from society, moving permanently into a cave deep in the woods. Neil is the only one who knows where he is, and keeps this secret even though it weighs heavily on him. John William rewards him for this ultimate act of friendship him in an unfathomable way.
Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘other’ as “being the one left.” It may seem as though John William is the other in this relationship simply by his act of becoming a hermit. But Neil is also an ‘other,’ the half that stays behind, lives the conventional life, and yet is haunted by the same question that John William struggles with – what is it that really matters in life. It appears as though they are each living the opposite answers to that question. In doing so, they complete each other.
Who will like this book? Anyone who enjoyed Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.
If you like this try: East of the Mountains by David Guterson
Recommended by: Mary, Reference Librarian