The Other Paperback – Jun 2 2009
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Amazon Best of the Month, June 2008: When John William Barry and Neil Countryman meet at a high school track meet in the early 1970s, they are two sides of the same coin: John is a trust-fund baby and student of a prestigious private school while Neil is solidly working class, but they share an affinity for the outdoors and apprehension over impending changes in their lives. After an unintentionally challenging week lost in the wilds of the North Cascades, John is compelled to an ascetic path: life in a remote river valley in the Olympic Peninsula rainforest, where he chips a shelter from a granite wall and immerses himself in the esoterica of Gnostic dualism--a philosophy that holds that the material world is illusional and destructive. Neil meanwhile chooses a traditional path as a father and school teacher, despite his troubled friend's exhortations to eschew "hamburger world" and find truth in a simpler, stripped-down existence. Nothing is that simple, of course, and The Other compellingly explores the compromises we make to balance meaning and security in our lives through the choices (and their subsequent consequences) of these two men. --Jon Foro --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Guterson (Snow Falling on Cedars) runs out of gas mulling the story of two friends who take divergent paths toward lives of meaning. A working-class teenager in 1972 Seattle, Neil Countryman, a middle of the pack kind of guy and the book's contemplative narrator, befriends trust fund kid John William Barry—passionate, obsessed with the world's hypocrisies and alarmingly prone to bouts of tears—over a shared love of the outdoors. Guterson nicely draws contrasts between the two as they grow into adulthood: Neil drifts into marriage, house, kids and a job teaching high school English, while John William pulls an Into the Wild, moving to the remote wilderness of the Olympic Mountains and burrowing into obscure Gnostic philosophy. When John William asks for a favor that will sever his ties to the hamburger world forever, loyal Neil has a decision to make. Guterson's prose is calm and pleasing as ever, but applied to Neil's staid personality it produces little dramatic tension. Once the contrasts between the two are set up, the novel has nowhere to go, ultimately floundering in summary and explanation. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What I liked: each of the scenes in the mountains with his eccentric and then bewildering friend, John William; the scenes in his classroom (too brief, wanted more, but then I too was a high school teacher); the trek through Europe and Neil's falling in love and early relationship. The reality of how poor many people were in that era as they struggled their way through college was very true to life, and Neil's commentaries on a variety of poets interested me as well.
I also admired the way Guterson interweaves the third-person narrative through secondary narrators even though his protagonist, Neil, is telling the story.
What I disliked: the entire denouement with all the scenes and flashbacks of John William Barry's parents and the endless monolog of the father. The scene in the lawyer's office and the merciless detail also seem to be filling a page quota rather than telling the story.
Overall, yes, I liked this book, but I didn't love it the way I loved "Snow Falling on Cedars" and "East of the Mountains." I think the editor could have helped Guterson trim 50 pages minimum.
I was astonished at the negative reviews, but when I considered the drawbacks readers noted, it occurred to me that the experience of listening to a book on CD (which I've only done a handful of times)versus reading a book will be inherently different, and might lend advantages or disadvantages depending on the plot line, the setting, the tone, and not the least, the narrator.
In the case of "The Other," I *loved* the detail that other reviewers described as excruciating; I was able to conjure up every scene with exquisite specificity and feel it as if I were there myself. I also enjoyed the quiet and solemn nature of the story and found it deeply compelling without the need for ostentatious drama. In fact, I was so moved by the beauty of Guterson's prose and the humanity in his story that I was brought to tears on more than one occasion. Mostly, however, the narrator (sorry I have forgotten his name) was very skillful in his evokative intonations, richly distinct character voices, and his ability to lend drama with just the right tempo and tenor--he brought the story to life for me.
And note, this book is NOT about camping as another review infers.
So, in summary, I would recommend "The Other" to you if you find the story line intriguing, but if you're concerned about the slow pace, save it for your next long drive and get the CD!
The latter is a trust fund kid who determines to embark into the woods and live (and eventually die) like a hermit.
Long after the death, the protagonist learns that his friend has willed his $400+ million fortune to the narrator.
I loved "East of the Mountains" and thought "Snow Falling on Cedars" was good but thought this plodding tale was a dud. For example, there are multiple points where a single paragraph runs on for a page, a page and a half.
That alone does not earn the novel my critique, but suggests the degree of tedium that lies in store for the intrepid reader.