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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. New York: Vintage Books (Random House), 1995. ISBN: 0-679-76402-X

This is a classic of modern Northwest fiction, and a must read for anyone who thinks of him or herself as a literary sort in this part of the county. Set in the San Juan Islands, and the waters around them, written with a feeling for the landscape, and with a sense of imagery that often approaches poetry, it would be worth reading for the setting alone.

But there is more, of course, so much more. There is the whole issue of the grossly unfair internment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II. There is the first love, puppy love, if you will, between a teen-age American, and the beautiful Japanese girl who lived down the road. This love haunts the life of the island's lonely newspaperman, who in the end, holds the key to the entire story.

There is a farm. The owner had promised to sell some strawberry fields to the Japanese family. But he dies before that promise can be fulfilled, and his wife and son cannot be forced to adhere to that promise. They sell to someone else.

The book is also a mystery. There is a death, and the son who sold the farm is the man who died, on his fishing boat, out in the Puget Sound. The evidence shows that his path crossed that of the Japanese and his boat that night, and since the Japanese man has a motive, and there is circumstantial evidence against him, he is accused and tried for the murder.

He will probably be convicted, except for the evidence the newspaperman turns up at the last minute. The accused is married to the Japanese woman he loved so many years before. They married in the camps. But will he do the right thing, and come forward. Or does he still hold it against her, that she rejected his love all those many years before.

But above all else, there is the language, the writing, the words, the poetry. This book is highly recommended.


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