Book #1: Snow Falling on Cedars
by: David Guterson
One sentence review: Snow Falling on Cedars is more about social history than suspense, and there’s some uncomfortable stereotyping, but the story does stimulate worthwhile reflection on the pain and injustice that fear and ignorance can create.
Once more, with feeling: “Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric, Snow Falling on Cedars is a masterpiece of suspense – one that leaves us shaken and changed.”
I mean, you expect a lot when you read that on the back of a book. And this one just didn’t carry through on that promise. The main plot follows the murder trial of a Japanese-American fisherman in a small, island fishing town, but the majority of the book delves into the history of the town and its people, focusing on the tension of race relations between the “native” islanders and the Japanese immigrants during and after World War II.
It took me some time to get used to the idea that this book just wasn’t what I was expecting, but once I did, I was able to build some appreciation for a few of the characters and work my way into the themes of race and fear and purpose throughout. It did feel a bit disjointed to me, and some of the personal histories just seemed too far removed from the main plot to garner much of my interest. I’d recommend Snow Falling on Cedars, but only to certain readers and with reservations.