Wednesday, 16 July 2008

An Idealist

Finished July 15
The Other by David Guterson
This story is told from the point of view of Neil Countryman, and is primarily about his relationship with John William Barry. Neil is from a working class background, the first of his family to go to university, and now an English teacher. John William is from a very wealthy background, descended from several prominent Seattle families and educated at an elite private school. The two boys meet in their teens at a track meet when they run against each other. They share a love of the outdoors and an interest in "experiences". They go hiking in the remote backcountry of Washington state, often with little in the way of supplies, relying on their wits to survive.
Attending different colleges, the boys begin to diverge. Neil gains a girlfriend and works hard to put himself through college, first in English and then to become a teacher. John William drops out of college and buys a tract of land in the woods and lives out there alone, eventually moving even deeper into the woods. John William enlists Neil and his girlfriend Jamie's help to make his family believe he has gone off somewhere, while really moving deeper into the backcountry. Neil struggles with his loyalty to his friend against his concern for him, second-guessing himself for years, until it all comes out.
The characters of the two boys/men are strong and well-developed and engaged me as a reader. The story is engrossing and unique and very plausible. I could see how this could so easily unfold as it did. A great read.

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