Snow Falling on Cedars, an Excellent Book

Cover image, Snow Falling on CedarsWhat I found most interesting is the extreme diversity of opinions about the book–ranging from those unable to finish it and seemingly finding it difficult to give it one star to those who found it outstanding. I can only surmise that any writing instructor will tell you–readers bring their own perspectives to a book. If you are looking for serious suspense, crime fiction, action adventure, a spellbinding legal drama or romance, just skip this book. If instead you are looking for a primer on how to develop characters using a literary equivalent of a fugue and see the locale as if viewing it in a Nat Geo documentary, Read this book. It has vivid imagery that takes you to small town (island) life in the Pacific Northwest of fishermen and stawberry growers. It provides a sometimes painful depiction of the racial tensions between Japanese-Americans and the Caucasians of the island community following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the detention of those Japanese-Americans and the lingering animosity among people in the early 1950s. Before the war, all were friends, for the most part. After the war, especially among those who had fought in WWII or lost loved ones during the conflict, resentment festered. Guterson does a great job of showing the reader the conflicts through the eyes of the various characters in the book. All of the exposition revolves around the murder trial of a Japanese-American. From there, characters shoot out like ribbons from a May pole. While not being a lawyer, Guterson does a great job of handling the narration of the legal proceeding. Throughout the book, the author defines each character through one scene after another–never just giving heavy doses of background but bringing out their lives over time. Some might object that some of the racial characteristics are stereotypical or the biases knee jerk; I don’t think so. Rather, I think they show specific people as they really are–warts and all. The back story of the youthful romance between the Caucasian reporter, Ishmael Chambers and Hatsue Miyamoto, wife of the accused, is particularly well done. I would say more about that relationship, but I don’t want to introduce any spoilers.

One thought on “Snow Falling on Cedars, an Excellent Book”

  1. Loved the movie (the scenery and mood were “Nat-Geo” indeed; your post inspired me to read the book! Nicki

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