I have to admit, when I first started reading this book, I had a problem withtrying to stay awake: I found the writing dry. Then slowly as characters wereintroduced, a mystery started to unfold, and tension between neighbors rose, Icould not put the novel down. Whether it was the vivid descriptions of the snowbanks, or the emotional accounts of the townspeople, David Guterson’s novel,Snow Falling on Cedars is a true piece of literary art. Snow Falling on Cedarsis the fictional account of a Japanese immigrant, Kabuo Miyamoto who is on trialfor the murder of a fisherman, Carl Heines. The majority of the residents of SanPiedro have already found Kabuo guilty simply because of his race, physicalstature, and history as a soldier.
Guterson weaves this relatively simple talethrough the eyes of many people giving points of view that are sometimes lost instories of prejudice, thus creating a complex story where one finds themselvessimplifying with every party involved. By doing this, Guterson establishes anemotional connection between the readers and the characters. The characters,although physically different, are very similar in that they don’t trustanyone who is different than they are. For instance, Carl Heine’s motheralways believed that Kabuo was glaring at her. She felt that he was sneaky andwas going to try and steal away her land. Through this statement, we see howsome of the white residents feel about their neighbors from the Far East.
Guterson also makes it known that the older Japanese do not trust the White’seither when we read the conversation between Hatsue and her mother. Hatsue’smother tells her that the whites are evil and deceitful and will try and takeaway her purity. By writing these conversations, Guterson shows us that a lot ofanxiety is built between different cultures when they do not understand eachother. Snow Falling on Cedars has found a place in my heart.
Up until the lastchapter I was convinced that this story was just a cheap rip-off of ?To Kill AMockingbird?, yet in the last chapter justice is served, and an innocent manwalks away. This is one of the main reasons I liked this book. I identified withthe characters, I established a connection, while the whole time hoping theywould do the right thing, and as we know, they do not let me down. Ishmael comesto the Miyamoto family with his news about the freighter, and they approach thesheriff with it. I was a little worried at this point that Ishmael was going toremain bitter about loosing Hatsue, but as was my initial feeling he did do theright thing.
I think that was one of the major themes that this book wasportraying, although people are different and have very strong conflictingemotions, we are all humanitarians and we will do the right thing. I feel thisbook ties in well with the ?Washington State History? class. One can readabout Washington’s high amount of trees, yet one cannot appreciate them nearlyas well as I did when reading Snow Falling on Cedars. Snow Falling on Cedars hada certain charm to it, something I connected with as a long time resident ofthis State. For instance, when Ishmael is making his way to his mother’shouse, and he is describing the chaos that the snow has created, ?Looking outpast the windshield wipers Ishmael saw billions of snowflakes falling in longtangents, driven southward, the sky shrouded and furious.
The wind propelled thesnow against the side of barns and homes, and Ishmael could hear it whistlingthrough the wing window’s rubber molding, which had been loose now for manyyears. ?(320) I am reminded of my days growing up in the Cispus Valley wherescenes like this were frequent in the winter months. The strawberry farms areanother good example. Some of the descriptions that Guterson used to capture thebeauty of these fields were as if they were mine. I remember working summer jobsin strawberry fields in Orting and the long aisles of strawberries were indeedquite beautiful and did have a great aroma. Perhaps the most important part ofSnow Falling on Cedars is the descriptions of the Japanese Internment Camp.
Maybe this is my fault, however I like to consider myself well in tune withhistory, but I had no idea how bad the Japanese were treated. To think, while wewere in Germany fighting against the evils of the Nazis and their treatment ofthe Jews that the whole country found disgusting, we were guilty of the samething. After reading this book I was driving to my sisters house, which happensto be right across the street from the Puyallup Fair Grounds, and it sent ashiver up my spine. Every year thousands of people go there and play carnivalgames and pet the horses, yet they have no idea that people were forced to sleepin these stables.
Snow Falling on Cedars is, quite simply, one of the greatestworks of modern literature that I have read. It captures the beauty of theNorthwest, the lust of adolescent love, and the ugly face of racism in us all. Snow Falling on Cedars fits in well with Washington State History on a fewlevels.