Shades of Blue
Photo of Mount Baker and Puget Sound by sea turtle used under a Creative Commons license.

David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars (Vintage, 1995).
Set in the 1950s on San Piedro Island, Washington, likely a fictionalized version of Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound, where Guterson lives. (The minority view is that San Piedro Island is based on the San Juan Islands.) On an island where most of the residents are strawberry farmers or fishermen, Ishmael Chambers is the sole journalist for the local paper. He covers the murder trial of a high-school classmate accused of killing another classmate over land. Hanging over the trial and the book are white islanders’ prejudice towards Japanese-Americans and the wartime internment of the latter a decade earlier. The novel combines elements of mystery, courtroom drama, romance, and history.

The Guelph Public Library provides a brief synopsis. Another site has an excerpt. Ellen Kanner interviewed Guterson. Here is a profile of Guterson after the novel’s success. Here are reviews and posts by verbivore, Megan, Marie, Margaret S. Hrezo, Shantanu Dutta, Paula, Will Stuivenga, and Orrin J. Judd, who is not a fan. The book is discussed in this essay on Northwest writing and regional identity, posted by the Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest at the University of Washington. If you prefer, here is a sort of video review.

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