David Guterson's novel, Snow Falling on Cedars, is one that covers a number of important aspects in life, including some controversial topics like racism and the Japanese internment during America's involvement in the Second World War. It speaks to this reader on a more immediate and personal level, however, through the playing out of Ishmael and Hatsue's relationship-one which Hatsue seems to be able to walk away from, but which shapes the way Ishmael tries to "live" his life because he cannot let go of the past, or a future that is not, and was not meant to be.
Ishmael never recovers from the severance of his romantic relationship with Hatsue because of the type of relationship that it was for him, and that it was not for Hatsue. During the internment, Hatsue realized that she "loved him and at the same time couldn't love him" (231). For Hatsue, the relationship was a friendship that grew into something it was not meant to; something she did not expect, yet allowed to continue because she could not decide if it was right or wrong. Ishmael, on the other hand, was in love. His was not a passionate lust, or a romantic love, but what true love is: an action, a decision, yet something beyond his control. For Ishmael also, the friendship grew into something unexpected, but for him it was a discovery that "[a]fter all these years that we've been together, I find you're a part of me. Without you, I have nothing" (222). Ishmael's relationship with Hatsue was something he had to hold on to, because it was all that he had.
During the War, after Ishmael's return, and throughout the trial of Kabuo, Hatsue's husband, Ishmael struggles with his feelings, hi...
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... is not something that can be defined, controlled, or conquered. But through Ishmael, Guterson reveals to his reader that it is possible to love someone without letting one's passions destroy life when that relationship is not meant to be, and never will. There is a reason to hope for something greater, something more in life than a dream that will never come true. This reader would like to believe Ishmael will never stop loving Hatsue because his love is true love, which, like God Who is Love (1 John 4:7) never changing. But Ishmael learns to see that loving Hatsue means moving on with his life and doing what Hatsue always knew, and what he now realizes, are the great things he is destine to do in life.
Guterson, David. Snow Falling on Cedars. New York: Vintage, 1995.
New American Standard Bible. Reference ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1975.
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