David Guterson Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Snow Falling on Cedars (1994) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
East of the Mountains (1999) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Our Lady of the Forest (2003) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Other (2008) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Ed Kind (2011) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Collections

The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind (1996) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Ten (with Margaret Atwood, T C Boyle, Nadine Gordimer, Jay McInerney, Candia McWilliam, Will Self, Patrick Süskind and Tobias Wolff) (1996) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Songs for a Summons (poems) (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Problems with People (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Short Stories/Novellas

The Drowned Son (1996) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Non Fiction Books

Descent (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

David Guterson on May 4, 1956 in Seattle, Washington. He is the third child of Murray and Shirley Guterson. His father, who gave him most of his present fundamental beliefs and philosophies in life, was a criminal lawyer and was extremely popular in his hometown. Guterson spent majority of his childhood outdoors and considers fishing as one of his favorite pastimes. He confesses to having been a delinquent during his teenage years, which is a fact that served to drive him to be more proactive during his college years.

In fact, when he enrolled in the University of Washington, he was still undecided as to what to major in. He took various courses that ranged from anthropology to oceanography, but when he entered his junior year, he opted to enroll in short-story writing course. It was then that he had his Eureka moment and decided from then on that writing would become his full-time career. He viewed it more as a calling, in fact.

After graduating in 1978, he married Robin Ann Radwick, and the couple moved to Rhode Island after he enrolled at a graduate writing program in Brown University. He didn’t find the program to his liking, though, as can be evidenced by the fact that he only attended one semester before returning to Washington. While continuing his studies at the University of Washington, he gained the acquaintance of Charles Johnson, who would serve as his mentor for years to come. Guterson earned his Master of Fine Arts in 1982 and started submitting his short stories for publication. As in most writers who succeed in the end, he got many rejection slips in the beginning.

After all, it didn’t take long for his stories to be accepted in magazines and journals. His first short story collection, The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind was published in 1989. The pieces in the collection received a lot of praise and was published separately in other publications. It was also around this time that Guterson became a regular contributor to publication giant Harper’s, although most of his submissions dealt with nonfiction. Family: Why Home Schooling Makes Sense eventually became his first nonfiction book and was published in 1992. It should be noted that Guterson is known for homeschooling all of his four children.

In 1994, his masterpiece and first novel Snow Falling on Cedars was published. Guterson revealed that majority of the themes of the novel took inspiration from such classic works as To Kill a Mockingbird and Shakespeare’s inimitable story of star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The theme of racial discrimination, particularly in one’s pursuit of justice, in Snow Falling on Cedars rings in a tone that is similar to the one in To Kill a Mockingbird. Guterson himself has said in interviews that he liked the structure of To Kill a Mockingbird, so much so that he opted to mimic it (albeit not entirely) in his first novel.

Snow Falling on Cedars

The story of Snow Falling on Cedars revolves around the murder case of Japanese American Kabuo Miyamito, who is being accused of having killed Car Heine. Heine is a well-known fisherman in the closely-knit fictional community of San Piedro Island. The body of Carl was found encased in his fishing net, with the only clue to his death being his water-damaged watch, which has stopped at the exact time of 1:47.

The trial of Kabuo occurs in 1954, a time when the wounds of World War 2 are still fresh in the minds of the island’s inhabitants. Covering the case is war veteran Ishmael Chambers, who is the town’s only journalist, and editor of the San Piedro Review. With the help of flashbacks, the reader would start uncovering the subtle connection between Chambers and Kabuo, which would prove to be vital in proving the latter’s innocence.

The author’s traditional storytelling style becomes evident with the novel’s use of flashbacks to move the plot forward. The novel is apparently divided into two parts. It is expounded and narrated in pretty much the same way as a regional novel, as is apparent in the author’s utilization of flashbacks. Nonetheless, majority of the present-day actions occur in a courtroom setting.

The book has been adapted into a full-length film, which received mixed reviews from critics, although, legendary critic Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 stars out of 4. It was nominated for Best Cinematography in the Academy Awards and received multiple awards in the same category from other award-giving bodies.

East of the Mountains

East of the Mountains is Guterson’s second full-length novel, and it was published in 1999. It is a complete change of style and theme if it’s going to be compared to Snow Falling on Cedars, though. This is because East of the Mountains takes a more philosophical approach in its narrative. It follows Dr. Ben Givens, a senior surgeon who has been diagnosed with colon cancer. Attempting to deal with this undoubtedly tragic news, he takes up hunting again; an activity that he has abandoned after serving as a soldier in World War 2.

Unbeknownst to his loved ones, though, his true intention is to actually commit suicide, as he wishes to spare himself and his family from the exhausting battle with cancer that was sure to ensue. On his way to the mountains where he usually hunts, though, he inadvertently crashes his car and is forced to rely on other means to get to his destination. Little did he know that this singular event is also what would ultimately help him decide whether to push through with his grim plan or not.

Critics praised the way the author presented the theme of the circle of life in the novel, as well as how it is ultimately up to the individual whether he’ll choose life or death. This is especially applicable in dire cases like the one Givens has to face. Would you choose the easy way out when faced with seemingly absurd and difficult challenges? Guterson made masterful use of flashbacks again in this novel; two of which served to crystallize the said theme. Critics also highlighted the author’s vivid descriptions of the landscapes that Givens went through, which served to reflect his inner musings and patently paradoxical feelings of desperation and delight.

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