Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

You know that guy who’s at every party, the one who loves to hear himself talk and tells long-winded stories while the unlucky few who got caught in his gravitational pull nod politely and and start eying the exits?

David Guterson is That Guy.

His book has a really interesting plot: a few years after World War II, a man of Japanese descent is accused of killing a white man on the small island community of San Piedro. The story follows the trial, and breaks every now and then for flashbacks about various characters’ pasts. Good story, but Guterson bogs it down with absolutely¬†pointless backstories and details. I didn’t need to know, for example, what six different random San Piedro residents did when the huge blizzard hit, or how the accused man’s wife’s mother was a mail order bride from Japan. And I think the book would have been equally enjoyable if Guterson hadn’t treated his readers to a description of how the murder victim spent his last day alive screwing his wife in the shower.

Guterson also works hard to keep his story dramatic (the courtroom scenes, I might add, are mind-numbingly boring). The accused man, Miyamoto, at first denies knowledge of the murder and then changes his story towards the end of the book, and whenever a character asks Miyamoto why he didn’t tell the truth from the beginning, Guterson is careful to arrange the dialogue so Miyamoto never has to actually answer that question. Similarly, when a character uncovers some Very Important Evidence towards the end of the book, he takes his sweet time delivering the evidence to the judge so Guterson can stretch his story out for thirty more pages.
By the last fifty pages of the book, I was just waiting for it to end and hoping there would be a really good twist ending that would validate the book. There is not.

Verdict: two out of five stars


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