Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Published by Bloomsbury
Publishing Plc., London.
is the first novel by David Guterson and was published as a 'whodunit'.
I suppose it is, but it is much more than your average thriller.
The story is set in San Piedro "an island of five thousand
damp souls, named by lost Spaniards who moored offshore in the year
a work detail sent ashore were murdered almost immediately
upon setting foot on the beach by a party of Nootka slave raiders."
He traces the history of the island and the arrival of various settlers
over the years to this island on the Pacific coast of North America.
He sketches the imprint each new wave of settlers makes on the Island
and the interaction and prejudices of the different communities
towards one another in the wake of the Second World War.
story opens on the first week of December in a courtroom "down
at the end of a damp, drafty hallway on the third floor of the Island
County Courthouse". Seated at the defendant's table is Kabuo
Miyamoto, a salmon gill-netter, accused of the murder of Carl Heine,
also a salmon gill-netter. While the book is the story of the resolution
of how Carl met his death it is also the story of the integration
of different nationalities into the fabric of American life and
the tensions that result from the interaction of different beliefs
and religions within small isolated communities.
Kabou and Carl were war veterans - Kabou served in Europe and Carl
in the Pacific. These two men, who had been friends before the War,
came back to their families changed by the experiences they had
undergone. After the War it was never clear "if Carl and Kabuo
were friends or enemies." Their view of one another is coloured
by their war experiences - Carl sees Kabou as one of the "goddam
Jap sons a - " that he fought against, while Kabou killed "pig-fed
Nazi bastards" who looked just like Carl. Neither man finds
it easy to see the other as an American, reared and rooted in the
same Community in spite of different ancestral backgrounds.
novel is beautifully written. Guterson has crafted his descriptions
of place so skilfully that the reader can almost feel the cold misery
of the December weather. He is also very skilful in portraying the
claustrophobic atmosphere of the small Island Community, where everyone
knows one another and lives in close proximity with one another.
It is almost a parable on human nature - Guterson's characters behave
the way they do because of who they are and how they have been raised.
Overall, this is a book well worth reading.
by Marie, a Clare County Library staff member.