From the author of the best-selling Snow Falling on Cedars, a dazzling new novel about youth and idealism, adulthood and its compromises, and two powerfully different visions of what it means to live a good life.
John William Barry has inherited the pedigree—and wealth—of two of Seattle’s elite families; Neil Countryman is blue-collar Irish. Nevertheless, when the two boys meet in 1972 at age sixteen, they’re brought together by what they have in common: a fierce intensity and a love of the outdoors that takes them, together and often, into Washington’s remote backcountry, where they must rely on their wits—and each other—to survive.
Soon after graduating from college, Neil sets out on a path that will lead him toward a life as a devoted schoolteacher and family man. But John William makes a radically different choice, dropping out of college and moving deep into the woods, convinced that it is the only way to live without hypocrisy. When John William enlists Neil to help him disappear completely, Neil finds himself drawn into a web of secrets and often agonizing responsibility, deceit, and tragedy—one that will finally break open with a wholly unexpected, life-altering revelation.
Riveting, deeply humane, The Other is David Guterson’s most brilliant and provocative novel to date.
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