A “finely wrought, flawlessly written” novel (New York Times Book Review), set on a small island in the Puget Sound, that is “at various moments a courtroom drama, an interracial love story, and a war chronicle” (San Francisco Chronicle). “Guterson has fashioned something haunting and true” (Pico Iyer, Time). Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award. A fall 1999 major motion picture.
This poetic novel beautifully captures the painful legacy of war and a community's struggle to deal with that pain. Shortly after WWII, fisherman Carl Heine is found dead in the waters off San Pedro, an island of ``damp souls'' off the coast of Washington State. Accused of his murder is fellow fisherman Kabuo Miyomoto, a member one of the many families of Japanese descent on the island. All of the island's inhabitants are gripped by the murder trial, but none more so than Ishmael Chambers, a local reporter who lost his arm in the Pacific theater, and Hutsue Imada, Kabuo's wife and Ishmael's former lover. First-novelist Guterson, a contributing editor at Harper's and author of the short-story collection The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind, pays meticulous attention to the legal intricacies of Kabuo's trial. His greater purpose, however, and one that he achieves with skill and grace, is an investigation of racism, the nature of justice and the ``same human frailty passed from generation to generation.'' This is a luxurious book, whose finely detailed evocation of its small-town setting effectively draws the reader to consider its larger issues.