Two men, two paths

 

The Other
David Guterson
256 pages,
hardcover: $24.95.
Random House, 2008.

David Guterson's newest novel, The Other, tells of the lasting friendship between two men. One chooses a life in the woods, while the other finds joy within city limits. Guterson, best known as the author of Snow Falling on Cedars, writes of the delicate balance between the romance of wild places and the security of family and home. 

John William Barry, a son of wealth and privilege, meets Neil Countryman, who comes from a blue-collar background, at a high school track event. The two friends make dangerous excursions up mountains and get lost in vast woodlands. "Climbing down vertical walls in a river was something you had to be young to try, a form of lunacy, and yet my friend's face was animated by happiness," is how Neil views one such adventure.

Neil gradually becomes a family man and an English teacher. John William retreats from the "cheeseburger world" after a breakup with his college girlfriend. Seeking peace, he burrows into a man-made cave deep within the Olympic rainforest. Neil is his only link to the outside world. "(John William) looked like a character from the Brothers Grimm -- the long hair and beard, the candle and book, the pool in the woods, the fire behind him and the cave overhead, the rising rock wall, and the dark trees." Neil worries about his friend, who is plagued by ringworm and infections, but remains loyal to him -- a pack mule tromping through the forest to deliver toilet paper and candy.

Guterson's John William is reminiscent of Chris McCandless, the real-life protagonist of Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, whose adventures led him to an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness, where he starved to death. But Guterson's novel also explores the road more traveled -- the life Neil chooses. Neil reflects, "I embrace the world -- the world my friend hated -- and suffer it consciously for its compensations, and fully expect to awake one day to the consequences of this bargain I've struck, since life, eventually, closes in."

High Country News Classifieds
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • NATURE EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Our mission is to inspire a life-long connection to nature and community through creative exploration of the outdoors. We are seeking an educational leader who...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND MARKETING DIRECTOR
    The Development and Marketing Director is a senior position responsible for the execution of all development and marketing strategies to raise funds and increase public...
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Coordinates all Wyoming Wildlife Federation philanthropic activities. Tasks include identification, recruitment, and retention of donors, organizing fundraising events, and assisting with grant writing.
  • REALTOR NEEDS A REMOTE ASSISTANT
    This is a business assistant position, The working hours are flexible and you can chose to work from anywhere of your choice, the pay is...
  • CORPORATE & GRANTS PARTNER MANAGER
    Forever Our Rivers Foundation Corporate Partnerships Manager February 2020 www.ForeverOurRivers.org Forever Our Rivers Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was formed in late 2016 with the mission...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • MEDIA DIRECTOR
    Love working with the media? Shine a spotlight on passionate, bold activists fighting for wild lands, endangered species, wild rivers and protecting the climate.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - NEVADA
    The Center for Biological Diversity is seeking an attorney to expand our litigation portfolio in Nevada. Come join our hard-hitting team as we fight for...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Montana Wildlife Federation seeks an energetic leader to advance our mission, sustain our operations, and grow our grassroots power. For a full position description,...
  • HISTORIC COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITY IN DOWNTOWN NOGALES
    Nogales. 3 active lower spaces and upper floor with lots of potential. 520-245-9000 [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • DIRECTOR, TEXAS WATER PROGRAMS
    The National Wildlife Federation seeks a Director to lead our water-related policy and program work in Texas, with a primary focus on NWF's signature Texas...
  • SPLIT CREEK RANCH
    Spectacular country home on 48 acres with Wallowa River running through it! 541-398-1148 www.RubyPeakRealty.com
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...
  • NEW MEXICO GILA NATIONAL FOREST HORSE RANCH
    43 acres in the Gila National Forest. Horse facility, custom home. Year-round outdoor living. REDUCED to $999,000, 575-536-3109.
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • COPPER CANYON MEXICO CAMPING & BACKPACKING
    Camping, hiking, backpacking, R2R2R, Tarahumara Easter, Mushroom Festival, www.coppercanyontrails.org.