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Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel by David…
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Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel (original 1994; edition 1995)

by David Guterson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,097None327 (3.75)251
Member:supranee
Title:Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel
Authors:David Guterson
Info:Vintage (1995), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 460 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:japan, united states, historical fiction

Work details

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (1994)

  1. 151
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (EerierIdyllMeme)
    EerierIdyllMeme: Very different novels exploring similar themes
  2. 90
    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (pdebolt)
    pdebolt: This novel also deals with the internment of Japanese Americans and the heartache endured.
  3. 20
    Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson (browner56)
    browner56: The Pacific Northwest sets the stage for these engrossing and highly atmospheric novels
  4. 10
    Sole Survivor by Derek Hansen (imager)
    imager: Internment, but in different circumstances
  5. 10
    The Sky Fisherman: A Novel by Craig Lesley (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books show a love for the Pacific Northwest in their setting.
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English (109)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Danish (1)  German (1)  All languages (116)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
This, the author’s first novel, couldn’t be more different from his allegorical Oedipus Rex novel, "Ed King," that I read last year. With just two books by Guterson under my reading belt, I'm already amazed at his talent and scope.

I saw the “Snow” movie long ago and determined then that I wanted to read the novel but only picked it up now. Love this book set in the Pacific Northwest of the 1950s on the fictional cedar treed island of San Piedro, whose inhabitants are divided into two lifestyles: the landward bound strawberry farmers and the sea-going salmon fisherman. They are also divided racially, the white (mostly Scandinavian Americans) and the Japanese Americans. Racial divisions come to a head when, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese are harassed and forcibly evacuated to camps in Montana and the Mojave.

They are further divided in the novel’s post-war present during Kabuo Miyamoto’s murder trial. He stands accused of murdering another well-respected fisherman, Carl Heine. The story adopts the removed p.o.v. of Ishmael Chambers, a WWII vet who lost an arm in the Pacific, fighting the Japanese and who is now the publisher of the island’s local paper. He and Kabuo’s wife, Hatsue, had been childhood sweethearts and teen lovers, forced apart by her parents’ racial prejudice and driven apart by the war.

The novel’s core concern is unraveling the events surrounding Heine’s death that are eventually uncovered by Chambers as he attempts to heal the emotional wounds surrounding the torch he still carries for Hatsue. The strong symbolism of Chamber's amputated arm and his lost love works well.

Guterson has created a book so atmospheric and spare, "filled" with suppressed emotions that explode in the most subdued way, that it lingers in one’s memory like a Japanese watercolor – all black line and white background, movement trapped in stillness, power exhibited by control -- reminding us of San Piedro's cedar trees covered in snow, the "black and white" racial divisions of its people, and the dark island itself that looms in a fog-shrouded sea. ( )
  Limelite | Mar 9, 2014 |
Snow falling on Cedars is a in depth point of view of how two cultures clash and try to adapt between each other. The struggle is a hard and rebellious stage between the characters that grow up along side each other. It’s a great story about Japanese American imprisoned in the Pacific Northwest during WWII, its sad that we treated other Americans this way. It’s a very interesting read and should remind us how far we have come as a society, but also how far we still need to go as a nation. ( )
  MeghanHines | Mar 5, 2014 |
Overall, the story was good. However, it's not so much a "whodunit" as a "what really happened" story. The story's pace is slow and methodical through the story. The characters and their motivations were illuminated through flashbacks, sometimes cumbersome ones at that. ( )
  dreamingbear | Feb 6, 2014 |
I was forced into reading this in High school but never finished so I thought I'd try again to see how it fared away from that setting. It was ok I guess. It wasn't amazing, but it also wasn't terrible (hence the 3 starred review). ( )
  Sarah_Buckley | Jan 3, 2014 |
Finished Snow Falling on Cedars last night at three in the morning. Well past my bedtime, goes without saying. It was completely gripping and taught me about WWII on the Pacific front; to me those times have always been about the war in Europe and I had little awareness of what the war with the Japanese entailed, how the Pearl Harbour bombing affected American consciousness at the time or what Japanese Americans had to suffer during the war and it's aftermath. The novel, set in 1954 deals with this aftermath as several main characters are veterans and we witness their state of mind and recollections of war atrocities, but the heart of the story is set in San Piedro Island on the Pacific coast, close to Seattle, a small island community of strawberry fields and lone fishermen who put out their nets at night and hope for a big salmon catch. When one of these men, Carl Heine, is found dead at sea in his own net with a grave head injury, the blame quickly falls on Kabuo Miyamoto, whose family had been in a long dispute with Carl's unpleasant mother over a land deal. The novel opens on Miyamoto's court trial for first degree murder, and with each witness on the stand we see events unfold from the person's perspective. Two other main protagonists from the island are Hatsue, née Imada and now wife of Kabuo Miyamoto, whom she became closely acquainted with during their internment in a Japanese camp; the other is Ishmael Chambers, another army veteran (along with Carl and Kabuo) who lost his arm in the war and has been in love with Hatsue since they were both children, always holding out hope he would marry her someday, though local prejudice was too strong to allow for their secret union to be declared openly. Their past relationship becomes a crucial element of the story when Ishmael, the owner of the local newspaper, gets hold of important information and must struggle with his conscience to decide whether or not to disclose his findings. This makes for a melancholy read, with the war looming in the background and active resentment toward the island's Japanese community, the descriptions of lone fishermen out at sea in blinding fog at night hoping for a good catch, and the winter storm raging outside during the three days of the trial, uprooting trees, knocking out electricity and phones and causing cars to slide off the road. It is also an affecting story, beautifully written and with characters who are so fully realized they seem to take on their own life. I was only vaguely aware this novel had been adapted to film, and I'll have to make sure I see it now, but I can't imagine it'll ever come close to the complexity of characters and vivid details of the movie which ran in my mind as I read this hugely compelling novel. ( )
  Smiler69 | Dec 24, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Gutersonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mijn, Aad van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To my mother and father,
with gratitude.
First words
The accused man, Kabuo Miyamoto, sat proudly upright with a rigid grace, his palms placed softly on the defendant's table - the posture of a man who has detached himself insofar as this is possible at his own trial.
Quotations
In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself
within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.
Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell what a wild,
and rough, and stubborn wood this was,
which in my thought renews the fear!
- Dante, The Divine Comedy
Harmony, like a following breeze
at sea, is the exception.
Harvey Oxenhorn, Tuning the Rig
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
San Piedro island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who livers there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American names 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 a land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Peidro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during WWII, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched. (0-679-76402-X)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067976402X, Paperback)

This is the kind of book where you can smell and hear and see the fictional world the writer has created, so palpably does the atmosphere come through. Set on an island in the straits north of Puget Sound, in Washington, where everyone is either a fisherman or a berry farmer, the story is nominally about a murder trial. But since it's set in the 1950s, lingering memories of World War II, internment camps and racism helps fuel suspicion of a Japanese-American fisherman, a lifelong resident of the islands. It's a great story, but the primary pleasure of the book is Guterson's renderings of the people and the place.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:48 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

When a newspaper journalist covers the trial of a Japanese American accused of murder, he must come to terms with his own past.

(summary from another edition)

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