BOOK REVIEW: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Title: Snow Falling on Cedars
Author: David Guterson
Publication: September 12, 1994
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 482

SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

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 a man’s guilt. For on San Pedro, 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—one that leaves us shaken and changed.


When my book club picked this book, (I say picked loosely because the two people in charge just decided to read it,) I wasn’t too thrilled about it.  While it is Historical Fiction and that is one of my favorite genres.  Just reading the back made me want to “put it back on the shelf and move on”.  However, the book was only 2.99 on Amazon for the Kindle version so I said what the heck why not.  Once I started to read it I was glad that I had given it a chance.  

In the Puget Sound is a small island.  The island, for the most part, lives in harmony with the Japanese people that have come over from Japan.  They grow strawberries and are fishermen.  That changes when Pearl Harbor strikes.  They cannot tolerate the Japanese.  Later after things calm down a man named Kabuo is tried for another fisherman’s murder, all those hatred feelings come back to the surface again.  The murder mystery that insures is one for the books.  First off, I must admit that I went into this book with not a whole lot of excitement.  While I love Historical Fiction I am not super keen on murder mysteries or anything of that sort.  There are a few that I like but not that many.  Once I started reading this book I read it in massive chunks, easily 20+% at each time.   I read this book right after I read The Help.  The similarities with racism were astounding.  The only thing was the Japanese were not serving us in the same manner as the Blacks.   I knew that there were massive camps in the desert that they carted up the Japanese to and dumped them off at it.  

This book kept me guessing the whole time.  I had several theories and I changed each of those theories about 6 times as I was reading it.  By the time I hit the end I was pretty mad because (without revealing spoilers) the whole murder mystery wasn’t what it seemed.  The backstories that the author provided for each of the characters at times felt like too much.  Some of them while helped to build up who the characters were felt like something that wasn’t necessary. At times I had to backtrack to see if I missed a break in the story.  One second I was reading about the present then the next paragraph I was reading about the past.  All in all, this is an excellent book that showcases racism in different forms  The people of the town had no problems with the Germans in the town during WW2 but had issues with the Japanese and sent them away to camps.  This is a book that needs to be read.  


Pick up your copy of Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or check your local bookstore. Also add it to your To Reads list on Goodreads and leave feedback for the author when you are finished. You can check out more from author David Guterson on Amazon HERE!

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