Almost twenty years old now, this book was a bestseller in its day, so likely many people have heard about it. One of the things that always struck me about Snow is how slow, lyrical, and quietly understated it is. I loved it, felt drawn into the story, from the opening phrase, “The accused man, Kabuo Miyamoto, sat proudly upright with a rigid grace…”
You get right into the story and all its undercurrents with that simple yet powerful opening.
The story centers around a missing fisherman, Japanese ill will following World War II, the sale of old family land, and a love triangle. It’s not a mystery so much as an exploration of human psyches and motivations. The book’s final line – which won’t be a spoiler, I promise – is, “Ishmael gave himself to the writing of it, and as he did so he understood this, too: that accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.”
It’s a lovely read.
The funny thing about reading Guterson for me, though, is that I could never get into his other books. He wrote another about a dying man planning to commit suicide, and I couldn’t get past the first chapter. Nor did I like his short story collection. Go figger.
But it really doesn’t matter, because if Snow Falling on Cedars were the only thing Guterson ever wrote, it would be legacy enough. It’s a wonderful book, deep, rich, complex in its rhythms yet straightforward and believable in its plot. Character makes plot. These characters are so very of their time and place. Get yourself a cup of coffee and a comfy chair, and lose three or so hours. You won’t regret it.