Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.
Paperback: 460 pages
Publisher: Vintage;(September 26, 1995)
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.
This book was more than I thought it would be. To be honest I think I picked it up at a thrift shop because it mentioned World War II on the back of the book. So it surprised me to find it was a Japanese fisherman on trial for the murder of another fisherman.
Like some murder mysteries you might see on television it begins with part of the trial and then goes back and introduces you to the characters, their lives and how things came to be a murder trial. During the time period this occurs WWII, Pearl Harbor happens and San Piedro Island is not exempt from "rounding up all the American Japanese" and putting them in internment camps. After the war some of the young people come home but with war injuries. One in particular now has a missing arm. The main character on trial Kabuo Miyamoto goes to war and serves the United States against his own people. But prejudices run deep. And so the story reminds us that some things have not changed, while others have. This includes use of language that might offend some, but it was proper to use for the story being told.
Quite a good book and reminder of things we may choose to not think about all the time.