Study Guide

Snow Falling on Cedars

by David Guterson

Snow Falling on Cedars Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

San Piedro Island lies in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, north of Puget Sound and Seattle, Washington, and just south of the U.S.-Canada border. San Piedro is a small island with a population of about five thousand people, mostly farmers and fishermen. Its largest town is Amity Harbor, which houses a few businesses and is the center of the local government.

A substantial number of Japanese have lived on the island since 1883, when they began to settle in as growers, especially of strawberries, and as fishermen. The Japanese have since had a congenial but somewhat separate existence from the white population of the island. Their children, however, have attended the same schools, and their daughters routinely win the title of queen during the annual strawberry festival.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii by Japan, which brought the United States into World War II, and the subsequent panic along the West Coast of the United States, changed everything in the community. The relocation of the inhabitants of Japanese ancestry to Manzanar internment camp in California, and military service of the local men in the Pacific theater, fighting the forces of the Imperial Japanese military, further distanced the two groups. After the war, residual racism and prejudice against the local Japanese who had returned to San Piedro continued.

It is now 1954. Local fisherman Carl Heine is not on his boat, the Susan Marie, when it is found in the early morning, adrift in White Sand Bay with its lights on. Sheriff Art Moran and his deputy arrive to investigate. They subsequently find Carl, dead, when they haul in the boat’s nets. Carl’s body is tangled in the nets and has a bruise on its head. Adding to the mystery is how the boat had been found—with all of its lights on and carrying a wrong-sized battery in its hold—suggesting to Art that something is amiss.

Soon, Kabuo Miyamoto, a fisherman who was on the water the...

(The entire section is 800 words.)

Snow Falling on Cedars Summary

Chapters 1-11 Summary

Snow Falling on Cedars opens in 1954 in the small town of Amity Hill. The fictitious island of San Piedro in Washington's Puget Sound...

(The entire section is 307 words.)

Chapters 12-22 Summary

Guterson presents Ishmael's wartime experience, which includes, most notably, the loss of his arm. This experience sharpened Ishmael's...

(The entire section is 324 words.)

Chapters 23-32 Summary

As the trial nears its close, Ishmael visits the lighthouse to find weather information for the newspaper. He discovers the watchman's notes...

(The entire section is 145 words.)