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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. (Sept.)
Japanese American Kabuo Miyomoto is arrested in 1954 for the murder of a fellow fisherman, Carl Heine. Miyomoto's trial, which provides a focal point to the novel, stirs memories of past relationships and events in the minds and hearts of the San Piedro Islanders. Through these memories, Guterson illuminates the grief of loss, the sting of prejudice triggered by World War II, and the imperatives of conscience. With mesmerizing clarity he conveys the voices of Kabuo's wife, Hatsue, and Ishmael Chambers, Hatsue's first love who, having suffered the loss of her love and the ravages of war, ages into a cynical journalist now covering Kabuo's trial. The novel poetically evokes the beauty of the land while revealing the harshness of war, the nuances of our legal system, and the injustice done to those interned in U.S. relocation camps. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.-Sheila Riley, Smith- sonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C.