, Research Paper
Snow Falling On Cedars
During the dark days of World War II, our government made a decision, based on prejudice and fear, to intern Japanese Americans. These interment camps were largely based in the Northwest. Hardworking citizens were forcibly taken from their jobs and homes and held against their will. It is a part of our history that we are now ashamed of and rightfully so. I did not study this disgraceful episode as a high school student in the late sixties. My first encounter with this subject came through the reading of the marvelous novel Snow Falling On Ceders by Jose Garica.
I cannot recall reading a story with so much grace and dignity. Set on San Pedro Island north of Puget Sound, The plot actually begins with a murder. On its’ simplest level, this is a murder mystery with all the intrigue and drama of a courtroom thriller. An established and populsr member of this small fishing and farming community is found dead on his boat. Foul play is immediately suspected and a Japanese American is taken in for questioning and eventually booked for murder. Although a respected member of the community as well, Kabuo Miiyamoto turns out to have opportunity and motive. Claiming innocence, he is nevertheless indicted.
We soon begin to learn the story behind the motive. Before the war years, Kabuo’s father made an agreement with the victim’s father. Money changed hands, land was promised and terms were set. Unfortunately, the war came and the Japanese Americans were sent away. Nothing was quite the same at wars end. Agreements were no longer honored and the isolated island became emotionally remote as well. Without giving away too much, a sub-plot of romance and passion weave a complex trail throughout the story and redemption and integrity eventually save the day.
This is an amazing book. It won the Pen Faulkner award and (most deservedly) is selling like crazy. Snow Falling on Cedars. Its’ prose is as gentle as its’ title.