Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson

Summary: San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder.

In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than one man's guilt. For on San Piedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries--memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo's wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched. Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric, Snow Falling on Cedars is a masterpiece of suspense--but one that leaves us shaken and changed. (Summary from back of the book and image from

My Review: Atmospheric is spot on. You can tell Guterson knows the Puget Sound and knows island life. He gets island (or what I am guessing you could equate to small town) people down to their core. This was one of those books that was so well written, you have to admire the prose by itself even if you didn't like the rest of the story. It was also one of those books that seemed to have more description than necessary or than you'd ever really need. After a time I began skimming sections because I already 'got' the atmosphere, the intricate details, the mood and tone the author was trying to portray. Truthfully by the end, I was just wanting to know the final outcome. Flashbacks are great, tell a lot of how the story came to be, but when it all comes down to it I really just wanted to know the verdict!

I have to mention that it seemed this author had a strong inclination towards anything sexual. Almost every character had some sort of description regarding his or her sex life. Some of the relationships seemed so shallow because they existed solely because of sex. How depressing. While I realize that this is based post-WWII and that many men came back altered to the point of having little to no communication skills, it still seemed over the top. But, then again, I've been informed that many people's relationships are solely about the sexual relationship. This could be quite accurate--sad if you ask me, but accurate.

Guterson did an amazing job depicting each character, showing the flaws and the strengths, helping you find value despite the weaknesses each one had. He also did an amazing job portraying prejudice, how war corrodes even the most gentle people, and how it trains the way you look at the world forever after.

While I can't say I'll read this again, I find myself thinking about the island, the people, their trials, and wondering if, as they moved on with their lives, they were able to mend some wounds that seemed unable to heal. This is a mark of a good book in my eyes: one in which you wonder about the characters long after you've finished it.

Rating: 4 Stars. It was too depressing to be 5 and also, for my taste, contained too much sex.

Sum it up: A complex story of history, war, prejudice, and convoluted facts leading to what could be a disastrous ending for Miyamoto.


Sweet Em said...

I think that your rating is just right and nearly word for word how I would describe the book.

Amy said...

I did like the movie...

Unknown said...

I have a little something for you over on my book blog:


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