The Monday Book: SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS by David Guterson

snowAlmost 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 collectionGo 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.



Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, out of things to read, publishing, reading, what's on your bedside table, writing

9 responses to “The Monday Book: SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS by David Guterson

  1. Tamra

    This book has been sitting quietly on my bookshelf unread; you’ve encouraged me to give it another look. Thank you.

  2. Linda Arnett

    You make me feel like such a grown-up (I’m 68) by saying that you couldn’t get started on Guterson’s other writings! I do that, fairly often, with authors and feel as if I’m being naughty by abandoning the book all together. You’ve helped me with my guilt! 🙂

  3. John Kues

    I really liked Gutterson story about the man planning on committing suicide, more than Snow. Phone won’t let me type w/o auto correct into something else…. grand

    • I know I didn’t put 2 t’s into Guterson, and I ended up the above comment with a grrr and it changed it into grand! The story about the suicide was East of the Mountains or something like that, and it turned into quite an adventure as I recall.

  4. Jenny Reed

    SFOC is also one of MY all-time favorites. I keep our public library in business; but when I find a book such as that, I buy it. My husband doesn’t understand–“Why do you want to buy a book that you have already read.” “Because I want it for my very own!”

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