Scott's Reviews > Snow Falling on Cedars

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
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's review
May 18, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: novel
Read in May, 2012

Snow Falling On Cedars, as so many good novels do, illustrates how a prevailing culture uses it's position of authority to justify unfairness on a sub-culture. In this situation it is the treatment of "Japanese-Americans" by "Americans" before and after Pearl Harbor. It is not written as a statement against America or things American; after all, this is a universal theme that afflicts all humankind. Guterson masterfully develops characters from both cultures to illustrate the potential of a pluralistic society, as well as probing into the fears that drive people apart. Central to the story are childhood friends: Hatsue and Ishmael. As their friendship evolves organically into intimacy, they become doomed to forces that even love cannot overcome. Hatsue stoically moves on, but Ishmael plummets. The story is centered around a murder case through which the timeline meanders. The accused is Kabuo, Hatsue's husband. The setting is an island north of the Puget Sound. The magic of the novel is Guterson's descriptives of nature, both land and sea. He writes with great knowledge about gill netting, strawberry fields, journalism and the court room. Ishmael's newspaper, the San Pietro Review is a wonderful device to give the reader snapshots into the daily life. Very riveting to me was Ishmael's war experience as a Marine invading a Japanese held island in the South Pacific. We frequently hear the term, "absurdity of war". Ishmael's experience certainly makes that a concrete expression.

I read this book a week ago and the novel still resonates in my mind. I worry because fear has once again become a dominant force in our culture. A tool which manipulates people to react accordingly toward various agendas. Fear pits people against one another, as this novel so lucidly illustrates.

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