Seattle, 1972: two teenage boys are standing at the start line of an 800m race. Neil Countryman is from the public high school in the north of the city: he slumps at his desk all day and gets high in the park at lunchtime, and wears a moustache that makes him look like the guy in the Camel cigarette ads. John William Barry is from Lakeside, a private academy for the more privileged of Seattle's youth: he is an earnest, fiery young man, and his family background is one of the material wealth and emotional deprivation.
As John William wins the race by a hair's breadth, their lives collide for the very first time, and it is the beginning of a friendship that is both fraught and intimate. Both boys have a taste for the wilderness, and they explore together the most remote areas of the mountains, the places ignored by guidebooks, where tracks and roads fade to nothing and all that can be seen is an endless unbroken destiny of trees. But as they grow old, John William's intense intelligence and craving for isolation mark him out as an eccentric, and as Neil begins to accumulate the more conventional comforts - a wife, a steady job - their lives begin to take radically different paths.
Eventually, John William is to retreat permanently into his own self-made wilderness, and in doing so presents his oldest friend with a gift which will change his life forever, bringing them both a notoriety that Neil had neither dreamed of nor hoped for.
A moving tale about the mixed blessings that friendship can bring, The Other is an extraordinary novel from a masterful storyteller.
About David Guterson
David Guterson is the author of the novels Snow Falling on Cedars, East of the Mountains and Our Lady of the Forest; a collection of short stories, The Country Ahead of Us, The Country Behind. and of the non-fiction book Family Matters: Why Home Schooling Makes Sense. Snow Falling on Cedars won the PEN/Faulkner Award. David Guterson lives in Washington State.