Friday, February 5, 2010

Snow Falling on Cedars

By: David Guterson 4/5

This was one of my challenge books for 2010, as I have always had this book in possession for a few years now and never ever picked it up to read, even though I have heard great things about it. 
I didn’t even really know what it was about when I first picked it up, or when it was taking place. Snow Falling on Cedars takes place in a few times mostly during WWII and then 10 years after the war, taking place on a small island in the Northwest of America. Since those times many things have changed including perceptions of people and the way we look at the world. The story involves many different families on an island, a close tight community that is mixed with Japanese Americans at a very difficult time.

The story is a trial story, intertwined with individual stories of linked stories on the island. The story can be a story of childhood love lost, or of a murder trial that is unjust and prejudice, or the story of a small town during a brutal snow storm, or of maintaining relationships. There are many characters like Hatsue, Ischmael, Kabuo, Carl Hein, Susan Marie, and more, of which we learn a little by little of their intertwined lives.

This was my first experience with David Guterson and his work, and I am not even clear if he wrote more books. I love the intertwined lives, and the suspense of the trial. Is there a deeper meaning in this book? Maybe.  Does the snow resemble cleanness and impurity of the island? I guess not, I could not see that, as there are very few people who are hesitant to point a finger at JAP! 

The story does have 4 different settings that actions happen, which is the town, the sea and boats, the strawberry fields, and the cedar forest. Looking simply at the forest it seems to be the place of secrets as if the trees that are together can better hide a person, and yes even a secret love affair. The sea is open, and large calm and at time ferocious. The dense fogs that lays across the harbor also can hide many secrets as well, as secret dealing between fisherman that by character are men of few words.  Most scenes on the sea talk about the calmness of things to come. The strawberry fields are scenes that take the reader to think about the larger aspects of life, like the future and families.  Most of these scenes are talking about children and working  in them, they create a sense of security, which is why maybe a lack of field for Kabuo meant a lack of this secure feeling. And lastly the town, which seems to have the most harsh scenes of brutal winter storms. This to means might portray the brutal and mixed up feelings of the people in the town about the war and a people that they were trained to think to hate.

The reason I give this book only a 4 out of 5 is due to the amount of pages and sometimes and unnecessary discussion of family backgrounds that were unnecessary, such as learning about Ischmael’s father, or maybe the life of Fujiko as maybe I don’t see the point of learning that much. I would have liked to learn more about the main characters. 

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