Snow Falling on Cedars
by David Guterson.
Winner of two mid-size awards, this very popular book is ultimately disappointing. In comparison to pulp mysteries it scores with better writing, but fails with plot. In comparison to “literature” in pales all around. The characters are flat with one or two defining inner conflicts, the plot is only vaguely interesting. What keeps this book going is its descriptions of small-town/small-island life. Although these depictions fall into ready stereotypes, Guterson at least gives a coherent rationale for their existence.
The writing is clear and easy to read. The plot revolves around a Japanese man wrongly accused of murder. Ten years after WWII, internment, Pearl Harbor, etc., tensions still run deep on this small island in the Pacific Northwest. The real guts of the story is supposedly a love affair between a white boy and Japanese girl before the war, but it is really quite uninvolving. I wish the Japanese guy had killed the other guy, just for some kind of interesting plot twist!