The novel, told by an omniscient narrator, actually consists of two stories which are closely
intertwined with each other:
Firstly, it is a court case in which Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese American, is accused of having killed Carl Heine,
an American of German immigrants.
Secondly, it is an unfulfilled love story between the young Ishmael Chambers, the son of a local newspaper owner,
and Hatsue Imada, the daughter of a couple of Japanese immigrants.
The setting is San Pedro Island off the state of Washington's northwest coast in the 1940s and 50s. Both stories are
based on a clash of cultures, the Japanese and the white American ones. Prejudices, different sets of values and different views
of life subtly hide behind the rural community's life on San Piedro, an island of about 5000 white Americans, Japanese and Indians.
The love between Ishmael and Hatsue remains unfulfilled due to these cultural differences; the same applies to Kabuo who is immediately considered
the murderer of Carl Heine, because he is the one who serves best as the whites' scapegoat due to his different behaviour and view of
life. What makes him even more suitable as the potential murderer is the hatred of white Americans against Japanese after the bombing
of Pearl Harbor on Dec.7, 1941.
The novel starts off with a courtroom scene where Kabuo's case is opened by Alvin Hooks, the prosecutor. So-called witnesses
are asked to give eveidence and after several days the twelve jurors believe in Kabuo's guilt and his premeditated murder of Carl Heine
on the night of September 15 when the two were out fishing on sea on their own fishing boats.
If you want to know more about the court proceedings, the reason for Kabuo's accusation and the above
mentioned love story, get hold of the novel which will attract your attention right to the end by its extraordinary
If you rather want to practise listening comprehension with your course, then order the HarperCollins audio cassette on the book:
Also available are Cliffs Notes on Snow Falling on Cedars: