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.
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.