Study Guide

Snow Falling on Cedars

Snow Falling on Cedars Summary

When the novel opens, it's 1954. A local fisherman, Kabuo Miyamoto, is on trial for murdering another fisherman, Carl Heine, Jr. The story starts on the very first day of the trial, when the prosecution opens its case. The court hears testimony from sheriff Art Moran, the coroner who examined Heine's body, and Etta Heine (Carl's mother). Through this testimony, the prosecution advances a theory that the murder was premeditated, and that Kabuo Miyamoto wanted to kill Carl over a land dispute between their two families dating back to before World War II. Ishmael Chambers, a local newspaper reporter with close past ties to Miyamoto's wife, Hatsue, is there reporting… and creepily watching Hatsue.

Throughout the story, we jump back and forth between the present day and the characters' memories of life before and during World War II. We learn that Hatsue and Ishmael had a romance that ended when she left for the Japanese internment camp Manzanar in 1942. Soon after that, Ishmael himself went to war, where he lost an arm and generally became a miserable and unpleasant person. We also learn how Hatsue ended up with Kabuo and get various other pieces of background about the characters and their families.

On Day 2 of the trial, Dr. Sterling Whitman, the hematologist who examined blood evidence from the "crime" scene, testifies for the prosecution. The prosecution also calls three fishermen who were out on the water the night Heine died, as well as Sergeant Victor Maples, who trained Kabuo in hand-to-hand combat. Then Carl's wife, Susan, testifies, and we get a lot of flashbacks to her life with Carl. Right after Susan finishes on the stand, the power goes out; apparently a snowstorm storm put the power out all over the island.

In light of the outage (pardon the pun), the trial judge decides to adjourn until the next day. After stocking up on some supplies and getting his car ready to travel, Ishmael heads out to visit the local coast guard office (to do research for a story about the storm) and to make sure his mother is okay. On his way, he runs into Hatsue and her father, who have had a car accident. He gives them a ride back to their house, at which point Hatsue tells him to write a story about how unfair the trial has been. Ishmael basically blows her off by saying that life is just kind of unfair and we all need to deal with it (in other words, tough noogies). After dropping them off, he continues on with his plans.

At the coast guard office, Ishmael suddenly realizes he might find some information relevant to the trial there. After about 15 minutes, he finds evidence that Carl likely fell off his boat when a freighter passed near to where he was fishing, which would have created major waves. To document his discovery, Ishmael sneaks out three pages from the records. Then, he heads to his mother's, where he ends up spending the night.

However, Ishmael's actions from there are not what you would probably expect. Instead of resolving to bring the evidence he found to the court, Ishmael decides he's actually going to sit on it and instead write the story that Hatsue suggested about the trial's unfairness. Why? Apparently he thinks it will curry favor with her so that, after the trial, she'll remember he sided with her. It seems that he has the idea that Hatsue might come sniffing around again if her husband isn't set free. Charming boy, no?

The next day, Kabuo and Hatsue both take the stand and offer their accounts of what happened the day Carl Heine died. The trial wraps up with closing arguments and reminders to the jury about their duties in weighing the evidence and arriving at a verdict. When they start deliberating, it's clear that all of the jurors want to convict except one.

Later that evening, Ishmael is at his mother's, continuing to sort through old memories. He decides to let Hatsue go finally. He heads over to her house and delivers the evidence he found at the lighthouse.

The next day, Hatsue shows up at his house early. She wants to check Carl Heine's boat for a lantern rigged up to the mast, which would corroborate Kabuo's story and help exonerate him completely. Hauling tail to town before the jury reconvenes at 8 a.m., they go and show Art the shipping records that create an alternate explanation for Heine going overboard, which helps convince him to go take another look on the boat for the evidence Hatsue and Ishmael think might be there.

They don't find the lantern, but they do come across evidence that it had been there. Also, they find proof that Carl's hand was cut (as Kabuo had testified) and that he had actually gotten his head wound by hitting his head on the boat when he fell over—and, as the prosecution claimed, through Kabuo's semi-mythical kendo skills. As a result of these findings and the evidence Ishmael had found, Kabuo is exonerated.

  • Chapter 1

    • Our story begins in a courtroom on Day 1 of a murder trial. A Japanese American fisherman, Kabuo Miyamoto, is accused of murdering fellow fisherman Carl Heine, Jr.
    • Then we "zoom out" and get some details about the town where the story takes place and the townspeople attending the trial.
    • One of the people sitting in the courtroom gallery, Ishmael Chambers, is a reporter who knows Kabuo.
    • The narrator describes a strangely intense encounter that took place between Ishmael and the defendant's wife, Hatsue, in the courthouse hallway that morning. He had tried to make sure she was okay, and she just turned away from him, imploring him to go away—like, multiple times. Hmm, we wonder why things are so intense between those two…
  • Chapter 2

    • We're back in the courtroom, where the prosecution is Art Moran, the county sheriff, as its first witness. Step by step, he describes the day he discovered the body of Carl Heine Jr. Art's testimony takes us up through the discovery of the body, tangled up in Heine's own fishing net.
  • Chapter 3

    • This chapter gives us defense lawyer Nels Gudmundsson's cross-examination of Art Moran. Nels gets Art to admit there is some ambiguity regarding how a wound to Carl Heine's head could have gotten there.
    • And the mystery deepens…
  • Chapter 4

    • The court is on a recess, so it's time to get some backstory about how Ishmael first heard about Carl's death.
    • We learn more about Ishmael's family and how they got into the newspaper business.
    • Then, we switch gears and get details about what happened when Ishmael had hunted down Art Moran on the day Carl Heine's body was found.
    • Ishmael had found Art Moran and his deputy, Abel Martinson, at the docks. With Art and Abel, Ishmael chatted with other local fisherman, who offered their memories of the previous evening—that is, the night Heine went out on the fishing expedition on which he died. During this conversation, it came up that Kabuo had been fishing near to Carl that night.
    • Ishmael had then prodded Art for more intel on why he was asking all these questions—was there something fishy about Carl's death? Art wasn't willing to commit to saying anything yet, but seemed to think this "accident" had more to it.
  • Chapter 5

    • Now we meet the coroner, Horace Whaley, and get some information about him. We hear about the day he performed Carl Heine's autopsy and what he discovered.
    • When Art and Abel arrived at Horace's offices, Horace relayed his findings so far. In particular, he mentioned a head wound that Carl had sustained and noted that he had seen that kind of wound during WWII, when Japanese soldiers used their gun butts to perform kendo strikes. Horace told him that, if Art was going to "play Sherlock Holmes" (59), he should go looking for a "Jap" with a bloody gun butt. Charming.
  • Chapter 6

    • Now we're in the present again, and Horace Whaley is getting cross-examined.
    • Nels asks Horace for some clarification regarding the medical findings and their ambiguity (lack of clarity).
    • From the gallery, Art Moran thinks some more about the day they found Carl, when he had to drive out to tell Susan Marie (Carl's wife) the bad news. We learn more about Carl and Susan Marie in the bargain—bonus.
  • Chapter 7

    • This chapter starts off with a "history" of Japanese and Japanese Americans on the (fictional) island of San Piedro, including some background on what happened there when all Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps in 1942.
    • Then we switch gears to the present, where Hatsue Miyamoto is asking to speak with her husband during the recess in the court proceedings.
    • And... then we're back in the (recent) past, getting details on Hatsue's visitations to Kabuo throughout his imprisonment. Feeling any whiplash from all the time travel?
    • We also learn more about Hatsue's background and life and a young girl leading up to her marriage with Kabuo.
    • Then, we get some background on Hatsue's parents, Fujiko and Hisao, and how they met and got married.
    • Along the way, we get a passing reference to the fact that Hatsue's first kiss was with Ishmael Chambers when they were kids. Wait, what?
    • Now we're back with Hatsue and Kabuo talking in the courtroom. They are discussing and thinking about their time in Manzanar, the internment camp where they were imprisoned during the war. This is where they really got to know each other and eventually got married.
    • We then hear about their wedding night in the camp, which was spent in a dorm with a bunch of other people listening nearby—er, cozy.
    • Finally, we learn that, eight days after their marriage, Kabuo had enlisted in the U.S. military in order to prove his bravery and loyalty to the U.S.
    • The chapter ends with a reference to Ishmael watching Hatsue with a controlled hysteria. Hmm…just what went down between those two?
  • Chapter 8

    • This chapter picks up with Ishmael's memories of Hatsue, which are running through his head as he watches her now in the courtroom. Apparently, in addition to the childhood kiss, they struck up a romance as teens.
    • We then learn about the odd jobs Ishmael held on the island when he was a kid and get more details about his romance with Hatsue.
    • Apparently, they used to meet in the hollowed-out base of a cedar tree that had been a hiding place for them as children.
  • Chapter 9

    • Now we're back in the courtroom with Ishmael watching Hatsue. The jurors have come back in after their break, and Carl Heine's mother, Etta, takes the stand.
    • Etta Heine is, to put it mildly, prejudiced and unlikeable. We get some background on her, and she relays the story of a land dispute between her family and the Miyamotos.
    • It seems that Zenhichi Miyamoto had approached Carl Heine, Sr. to ask if he would sell seven acres of his strawberry farmlands to him. Etta had been against it, since she was rabidly prejudiced against the Japanese, but the elder Carl Heine (who did not share his wife's xenophobia) made the deal.
    • Oh, one tricky thing, though: the Miyamotos were on a payment plan for the land and—because they weren't born in the U.S.—couldn't get an official deed. Carl was going to hold it for them until the kids (who were born in the U.S.) could take possession legally.
    • Now we're back in the courtroom, and the judge is explaining the legal mumbo jumbo that prevented the Miyamotos from being on an official deed for the land they purchased. Alvin Hooks, the prosecutor, asks Etta to explain why the Miyamotos no longer own the land they had purchased.
    • As we already mentioned, the plan had been for the Miyamoto kids to take over the deed officially when they came of age. However (as you already know), in 1942 Kabuo's family got sent off to the internment camps... which definitely threw a wrench into that plan.
    • In relaying this whole history in her testimony, Etta recalls being extremely offensive and aggressive to Zenhichi when he came to make arrangements for the land before leaving for the internment camp.
    • While the Miyamotos were away, Carl Sr. died and Etta ended up selling all the land (including the Miyamotos' piece) to Ole Jurgensen. Since the Miyamotos ended up missing their last payments (because they were, you know, in prison) and weren't on the deed, Etta had no qualms about just sending them back their equity and making the sale. Hmm, okay, we think we've spotted a motive for Kabuo Miyamoto to have a beef with the Heines...
  • Chapter 10

    • We pick up again with Etta Heine, who's still on the stand and still keeping it racist. We learn that Kabuo Miyamoto visited her once he returned from the war, trying to figure out what happened to his family's land. She had explained that it was gone.
    • Etta claims that Kabuo has been giving him dirty looks ever since, and that their families were definitely enemies now.
    • Then Ole Jurgensen takes the stand and tells his part of the story regarding the sale of the land. He claims that Kabuo indeed felt robbed by Etta and claimed he would get his land back someday.
    • He also recalls eventually putting the land back up for sale after his stroke, and Carl Heine, Jr. showed up immediately to buy it. They shook on it.
    • So, when Kabuo showed up later that same day also trying to purchase the land, he was too late... and he was not pleased. This was just a few days before Carl was found dead. Whoa, this motive is getting thick.
  • Chapter 11

    • The noon recess has been called, and Kabuo is eating lunch in his cell. He's remembering the war and reflecting on the trial. He recalls the first time Nels, his attorney, came to visit him in jail. They had played chess.
    • He also remembers how his romance with Hatsue developed.
    • Then, he remembers training at kendo when he was a kid.
  • Chapter 12

    • Now we're back with Ishmael in the courtroom. He's still thinking about Hatsue and remembering the details of their romance. Apparently they had to hide their relationship from basically everyone, including their families. He recalls that things got super-complicated once the war began.
  • Chapter 13

    • Zooming around in time and space yet again, we get the story of the day Pearl Harbor was attacked and all the fear, precautions, paranoia, and anti-Japanese American sentiment that cropped up after that point (and the impact all of the above had on Hatsue, her family, and their friends and acquaintances).
    • Art Chambers, Ishmael's dad and the publisher of the local paper, the San Piedro Review, made an effort to combat the anti-Japanese American feelings swarming about by emphasizing the loyalty of San Piedro's Japanese American residents in his stories.
    • Then we hear about how all the hubbub affected Hatsue and Ishmael's teen romance.
    • Later, Ishmael and his father, Art, had discussed Art's philosophy of journalism, which involved framing facts in a particular way.
    • That framing got him in the bad books of some of the island's resident racists, who wrote in and even called him anonymously to chew him out.
  • Chapter 14

    • Continuing with the flashbacks, this chapter details when the FBI came to arrest Hisao Imada and seize a bunch of his weapons and paraphernalia. When they discovered some dynamite he wasn't allowed to have, Hisao was arrested. He later learned that the FBI magically found grounds to arrest a bunch of other Japanese American men at that same time.
    • Then, we get the lowdown on some tensions between teen Hatsue and her mother. During a conversation about relations between the hakujin (a Japanese term for white people) and Japanese Americans, Hatsue tried to defend the former from her mom. Fujiko wasn't really having it and tried to convince her daughter that mingling with the hakujin would not end well.
    • Despite being defiant with her mother, Hatsue had serious doubts about her feelings for Ishmael and their future together (you know, given the political climate).
    • She tried to float these concerns to him during one of their secret meetings in the hollow tree. He had assured her that things would be fine, but she wasn't so sure.
    • Well, it turns out Ishmael was wrong; soon after that talk, the plans for Japanese internment were announced.
    • At this point, the book zooms its focus out a bit and discusses the impact of this policy on the Japanese American population of the island. There's a lot of detail about the arrangements people needed to make for all their property and animals.
    • Meanwhile, Hatsue and Ishmael arranged a way to send secret (they hoped) letters to each other. Ishmael would send her letters with the school newspaper listed as the return address, and Hatsue was to send her letters with Kenny Yamashita as the sender.
    • With all that business squared away, things got a bit steamy. Ishmael proposed marriage to Hatsue and started initiating sex with her. However, Hatsue inwardly felt that what was happening between them at that moment was not right.
    • Oblivious to where her head was at, Ishmael tried to forge ahead with the sexytimes, but Hatsue pushed him off. She unequivocally refused to get married, saying that it would never happen.
  • Chapter 15

    • This chapter opens with a description of the day the Imadas and other Japanese Americans left San Piedro for the internment camps. We get the details of their travel and conditions at the camp (short version: they were not pretty).
    • Then, we learn what happened when Ishmael tried to send his first letter to Hatsue with that "Journalism Class" return address. Apparently, her sister Sumiko picked up the mail and was so desperate for news from home that she opened up the letter with no qualms (even though it was addressed to Hatsue). In defense of the snoopy sister, she probably thought (given the return address) that it wasn't likely to be personal.
    • Naturally, she was surprised to find a love letter from Ishmael within the envelope. She brought the letter to her mother.
    • This lead Fujiko into memories of her early married life, which wasn't happy. Still, she battled through. Somehow these thoughts occurred to her when she was thinking about her daughter's deceit and pursuit of a hakujin boy.
    • She intended to confront Hatsue when she got home. While she was waiting, Kabuo Miyamoto (whom she already knew from San Piedro, of course) showed up with some other boys. Apparently, they were going around the camp offering to build furniture for the residents and help patch up holes in their accommodations. They got to work immediately on the items they could accomplish that day, and Kabuo chatted with Fujiko.
    • Then Hatsue walked in. Once Kabuo and the other boys had finished up their work for that day and hauled out (promising to build and return with more furniture), Fujiko confronted Hatsue.
    • Fujiko claimed she would be collecting the mail herself from now on.
    • Then, she went on to write a letter to Ishmael's parents, revealing her daughter's activities with their son. She showed the letter to Hatsue, who said it didn't need to be sent—Hatsue had no intention of trying to pursue anything with Ishmael.
    • Once Hatsue had convinced her mother that she was already completely done with Ishmael (without her help), Fujiko decided not to send the letter and instead let Hatsue send her own.
    • A few months later, after Hatsue had given herself some time to get over Ishmael, she became more receptive to Kabuo Miyamoto's friendliness (he had asked her to go out to walk underneath the stars soon after Lettergate, but she had said no and wouldn't speak to him for three weeks).
  • Chapter 16

    • This chapter details Ishmael's war service and some of the horrific things that happened to him.
    • There's a graphic description of Ishmael's participation in the Battle of Tarawa, during which he lost part of his arm.
    • Alongside these awful war experiences, Ishmael was still suffering from the loss of Hatsue and believed he had started to hate her.
  • Chapter 17

    • Now we're back in the present with a rather extended description of the snowstorm hitting San Piedro during the first afternoon of the trial, which worsens as the day goes on. We get lots of details about the various accidents and shenanigans the town residents get into as a result of the weather.
    • Then, we pick up with the trial, which is continuing after the afternoon recess. Art Moran is called back to the stand to discuss some of the physical evidence found on the boats of Carl Heine and Kabuo Miyamoto.
    • He also explains that it was a meeting with Etta Heine on the day the body was discovered that inspired him to question Kabuo Miyamoto in the first place. He had asked if Carl had had any enemies. We don't get details on what she said, but obviously we know she implicated Kabuo.
    • After that meeting, Art was determined to search Kabuo Miyamoto's boat before he went out for his nightly fishing.
  • Chapter 18

    • Still in the past, we get the skinny on what happened when Art went to Judge Lew Fielding to ask for the warrant to search Kabuo Miyamoto's boat.
    • Art laid out five reasons he wanted to question Miyamoto.
    • Judge Fielding was a bit reticent to sign the warrant, given the tenuousness of some of Art's evidence. He was particularly unimpressed by Etta Heine's statements, since he knew what a "hateful" woman she was.
    • Fielding ended up signing the warrant, but he made it a limited one; Art was only allowed to use it to search for the murder weapon on Miyamoto's boat.
    • We then scoot over to Kabuo Miyamoto's boat, where he accidentally killed a seagull (which is actually viewed as a bad omen among fishermen, we learn) just before Art Moran came aboard to execute that search warrant.
    • Kabuo was surprised that Art wanted to search the boat. He claimed he had had nothing to do with Carl's death and didn't know anything about it.
    • However, when Art found a gaff with blood all over the handle, he decided he'd found enough to arrest Kabuo.
    • Art was originally going to wait until he got the blood analysis back to decide on an arrest, but only under the condition that Kabuo promised not to go fishing that night (Art didn't want him to make a run for Canada). Kabuo refused, so he was arrested.
  • Chapter 19

    • We pick up in the present on the second day of the trial, which is December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day—forget snow and fog, the air is getting a little thick with irony and symbolism). Apparently the jurors are pretty unhappy after having spent a cold night at the hotel.
    • The prosecution is still making its case, and Dr. Sterling Whitman takes the stand. He is the hematologist who analyzed the blood evidence from the gaff. His analysis indicated that the blood on the gaff was Carl Heine's blood type (and not Kabuo Miyamoto's). Uh-oh...
    • Nels Gudmundsson then cross-examines Whitman, trying to poke some holes in the prosecution's contention that the blood evidence necessarily points to his client.
    • Then, Vance Cope, Dale Middleton, and Leonard George testify that they saw Miyamoto in the vicinity of Carl's boat.
    • On cross-examination, Leonard George asks Nels to explain if, or when, one fisherman might board another's boat. George says that it only happens in cases of emergency.
    • Then, the prosecution calls Sergeant Victor Maples. He had been responsible for training Kabuo Miyamoto in hand-to-hand combat during World War II.
    • Maples's testimony revealed that Kabuo had already honed some serious skillz in this arena, thanks to his kendo training. In fact, Kabuo had ended up training Victor in kendo.
    • Victor has apparently decided to thank him by telling the court he totally thought Kabuo was capable of murdering someone in the manner the prosecution had suggested. That's quite a thank you.
  • Chapter 20

    • At the beginning of this chapter, we get some details about Susan Heine, who is also in court that day.
    • We then get Susan's memories of a day just a little bit before Carl's death, when Kabuo had visited their house. Carl and Kabuo had gone walking outside so Kabuo could explain why he was there.
    • Interspersed with the details of that meeting, we get the (fairly racy) lowdown on how Carl and Susan got together and their married life.
    • When Carl had returned, he had explained that Kabuo wanted to buy back his family's seven acres (once Carl had officially purchased the whole parcel of land from Ole, that is). Carl had said he'd have to think about it, citing his mother's feelings as a possible complication. Kabuo seemed to get upset at the mention of Etta and her stories about Kabuo's dirty looks, and he left immediately, refusing to come back to the house for coffee.
    • Carl and Susan had discussed what he was going to do. Carl admitted that he had some residual anti-Japanese feelings that were playing into the equation, even though he and Kabuo had once been friends as kids. They ended the conversation without resolving what Carl would do, since their child had had an accident in the backyard.
    • Then, Susan remembers the day of his death and seeing him off for the last time.
  • Chapter 21

    • We skip right over Susan Heine's actual testimony for the prosecution (which presumably contained a lot of the details from the previous chapter—maybe not the sexy stuff, though) and rejoin her in the courtroom being questioned by Nels Gudmundsson.
    • Before we jump into her testimony, however, we get some details about Nels himself, his problems with age and sexual dysfunction, and his late wife.
    • Then, we get the actual testimony. Nels gets Susan Heine to admit that Carl had not outright refused Kabuo and, in fact, had given him some reason to hope that he'd sell him the seven acres (once he'd actually officially purchased it from Ole).
    • Also, Nels manages to make a larger point about all the hearsay that had been admitted as evidence in the trial (he thinks it's shady).
    • Then, the power goes out due to a fallen tree on a power line.
  • Chapter 22

    • Despite the fact that the lights are out, because it's still daytime, Judge Fielding is up for proceeding. However, since Susan Heine was the prosecution's last witness and Hooks has no desire to redirect, Fielding calls a lunch recess and says that they'll evaluate whether to proceed with the trial today when they reconvene at 1 p.m.
    • He also asks that Hooks and Gudmundsson meet him in chambers, where they then discuss logistics for the jurors at the hotel in light of the power outage.
    • Back in the courtroom, Ishmael is hanging out, thinking, but the bailiff Ed Soames orders him out.
    • Ishmael then goes to his office to try to use the phone, but it's out (and he then realizes he won't be able to print the paper, either, with the electricity off). So, he starts formulating a plan to get the paper printed elsewhere and check in with his mother to make sure she's okay.
    • He goes to Tom Torgerson's filling station and arranges to have someone go put chains on his car. He also runs some other errands, getting supplies and information related to the storm and grabbing lunch. Then he returns to the courthouse.
    • Once they are back in session at 1 p.m., Fielding announces that the trial is adjourning until 8 a.m. the next day.
    • Ishmael leaves, loading up his car with all his supplies and heading out toward the coast guard station (where he's planning to do some research for a story about the storm).
    • On the way up, he comes across Hisao and Hatsue stranded on the side of the road after their car had wiped out in the treacherous conditions. Ishmael gives them a ride home.
    • Hatsue isn't terribly friendly and keeps her distance at first. However, at one point she tells Ishmael that he should write about how unfair the trial has been.
    • Ishmael kind of balks at using the paper to rail against unfairness, suggesting that "unfair" is kind of the default state of things. Hatsue disagrees, and the two part from each other annoyed. However, Ishmael is also pleased, because at least Hatsue talked to him. Way to keep your eye on the most important stuff happening, Ishmael.
  • Chapter 23

    • Ishmael arrives at the coast guard lighthouse, where he chats with Petty Officer Evan Powell. He's looking for storm records for a piece on the current snowstorm. Powell has the lighthouse's radioman, Levant, get Ishmael set up to look at the records.
    • As he dives into the archives, Ishmael also dips into his "Hatsue obsession" memory bank, thinking about when he saw her for the first time after the war.
    • Apparently, the encounter (at the grocery store) had been super-awkward. Hatsue had tried to offer her condolences on the loss of his arm, and he told her that the "Japs" had done it. Hatsue didn't react, but Ishmael immediately apologized and explained his meanness by telling her how miserable and wretched he was.
    • After this incident, he was miserable and couldn't sleep well. While walking around the island one sleepless morning, he came across Hatsue, who was hanging out on the beach with her baby.
    • Hatsue resisted talking to him, saying it wasn't right for them to be alone, but Ishmael ultimately got his way.
    • He again told Hatsue how miserable he was, but he said he could probably feel better if she would just let him hold her for a little while. Despite feeling bad for him, she, you know, passed on being Ishmael's hug pillow.
    • While thinking about all this, Ishmael realizes that perhaps the maritime records he's searching for would have something relevant to the Miyamoto case.
    • It doesn't take him long to find something important: evidence that a ginormous freighter had gone plowing through the area where Carl Heine was fishing—and at around the same time that he went overboard (judging from the time his watch stopped). Ishmael realizes that the waves from the freighter would easily have been enough to knock Carl overboard.
    • Ishmael grabs three pages of the transmission notes from that evening and puts them in his pocket.
    • Also, he learns that the men at the coast guard office who received the transmissions from the freighter—that is, the dudes who would have easily pieced together the connection between the local murder investigation and the freighter's unusual detour through fishing waters—left the day after that shift for posts elsewhere. So, no one over there realized that the key to Carl Heine's death was in their records. How's that for bad luck?
  • Chapter 24

    • Now Ishmael is at his mother's. They talk about Ishmael's lack of religious sentiments and the trial. Ishmael pretends to think that Kabuo is guilty, even though he now has compelling evidence that Carl Heine wasn't murdered at all.
    • They also talk over Ishmael's philosophy of "facts" and his unhappiness.
    • Later, he goes around exploring the house and indulging in more memories, this time of his childhood and father. We hear about his father's death from cancer.
    • Then, not to be deterred too long from mooning about Hatsue, Ishmael hunts up the letter his former lover had written him from Manzanar breaking things off. We get the full text.
    • We then get some intel about his unfulfilling sex life as an adult and about how he ended up coming back to San Piedro to run his dad's paper.
    • Speaking of Art, Ishmael reflects that his dad would have been down at the courthouse already to deliver the coast guard evidence to the judge.
    • Ishmael, however, is not going to do that. Instead, he intends write the article about the trial that Hatsue had requested, which would make her indebted to him after the trial. He thinks she would then have to speak to him, since he had taken her side. Um, what? This is more important than saving a guy's life? Oh, right, Ishmael probably wants that guy out of the way. Oh, the twisted logic...
  • Chapter 25

    • It's Day 3 of the trial, and Hatsue is taking the stand as the first witness for the defense. Before she starts speaking, however, we get some details on how people (and particularly Nels) have been struggling with the cold and lack of electricity, as well as other tidbits about the thoughts of those assembled.
    • Hatsue is thinking about her married life with Kabuo, including his sadness and distance after the war.
    • She remembers how Kabuo got into the fishing business and thinks about how much he wanted his parents' land back.
    • Then, she actually starts her testimony. She describes her husband's plan to try to buy the land back from Carl and his reactions to conversations with Ole Jurgensen and then Carl about the purchase. She claims that Kabuo was super-hopeful that Carl would sell him the land back, based on their conversation right before Carl's death.
    • She also reveals that, on the day of Carl's death, her husband had come home reporting that Carl had agreed to sell him the land. The deal had taken place on Carl's boat, right after Kabuo had helped him replace a dead battery.
    • However, later that day, Hatsue had learned from a checkout clerk at the grocery store that Carl was dead...
  • Chapter 26

    • Now it's Alvin Hooks's turn to cross-examine Hatsue. He questions why Hatsue hadn't told anyone that Carl and Kabuo had come to an agreement (prior to the discovery of the body, that is), and why Hatsue hadn't come forward (after the body was discovered) with the information she had about the dead battery and Kabuo's assistance to Carl Heine.
    • She explains that they thought lying low—rather than rocking the boat (pardon the pun)—was the better move. After thoroughly trashing her reasoning for not coming forward, Hooks tells her she can step down.
    • Hatsue wants to say more at that point, but the judge gets her off the stand before she can.
    • Then, Nels Gudmundsson calls Josiah Gillanders, the president of the San Piedro Gill-Netters Association.
    • Josiah tells the court how hard it would be for a fisherman to tie his boat up to another fisherman's vessel if both were not willing parties. Also, Josiah emphasizes that this situation would only occur in an emergency.
    • Josiah then gives his thoughts about the meaning of all the batteries found on Carl's boat; his view is that Miyamoto's story rings true.
    • Nels asks him to speak to the notion that Carl's "murder" was premeditated. Because of the impossibility of tying one's boat up to another forcibly (i.e., without the consent of the person piloting the other boat), Gillanders says that it was highly unlikely that anyone would have planned a murder that depended on doing that.
    • Then, Alvin Hooks cross-examines Josiah. He gets Josiah to imagine a scenario in which Kabuo feigned an emergency to get Carl to tie up his boat to his, which would have allowed Kabuo to execute a premeditated plan to murder Carl. Josiah admits that this scenario is plausible but maintains that it isn't likely.
  • Chapter 27

    • Now, the moment we've all been waiting for: Kabuo's testimony.
    • Before we can dig into that, however, we get details of how Kabuo passed the previous night given the cold and lack of electricity. Apparently, jail doesn't get any more pleasant when the heat is out.
    • Overnight, he had pondered his mistake in initially failing to tell Art Moran anything about Carl's emergency and his role in helping him out of it.
    • He'd also kept the truth from Nels at first, too, until Nels finally convinced him that the truth was better.
    • Then, we get Kabuo's detailed memories of the night Carl had gone overboard. We've gotten most of the broad details in drips and drabs throughout the novel, but here we get the fleshed-out account.
    • We learn that Carl cut his hand that night while using Kabuo's fishing gaff to wedge the new battery into place. The accident would explain why his blood was found on the "murder weapon."
    • In a nice moment, we get Kabuo's memories of making the deal with Carl. They had cleared the air about the family "feud" Carl's mother had started, and Kabuo railed against the widespread anti-Japanese sentiment that seemed to have infected Carl, too.
    • Then they arrived at a deal regarding the land and shook on it.
  • Chapter 28

    • Apparently, Kabuo has just finished telling this story to the court, and Alvin Hooks is about to cross-examine him.
    • During the cross, Hooks gets on Kabuo's case for initially not being forthcoming about his interaction with Carl on the night of his death and for not offering certain details in his testimony about the battery.
    • Once Kabuo is allowed to step down, we learn that the people watching from the gallery are not sympathetic to the defendant; he makes them think about the war, and they view him as entirely different from themselves.
  • Chapter 29

    • Now we're in the homestretch of the trial. Alvin Hooks offers his closing statements first.
    • Nels Gudmundsson then offers his own, imploring the jury not to be swayed by prejudice in deciding Kabuo's fate.
    • Then, Judge Fielding delivers his closing guidance to the jury. He reminds them that they can convict only if Kabuo's guilt (and it has to be guilt of premeditated murder) is beyond a shadow of a doubt.
  • Chapter 30

    • Everyone is clearing out of the courtroom. Hatsue tells Kabuo she thinks the jury will do the right thing.
    • Ishmael remains, still pondering what to do about the ridiculously important evidence that he has decided to hold back, apparently out of some residual feelings for Hatsue. Because what says love more than letting the father of your beloved's children hang for a murder he didn't commit?
    • Ishmael and Nels exchange pleasantries and then exit the courtroom.
    • Going to the cloakroom, Ishmael runs into Hisao and Hatsue. Hatsue once again suggests that Ishmael write about the unfairness of Kabuo's trial in the paper.
    • Ishmael puts her off, saying that if she wants to discuss anything with him, he'll be at his mother's. He then walks around outside, checking out the destruction the snow had created.
    • Then, we jump over to the jury, who are almost all unanimous in wanting to convict Kabuo. The one hold out is Alexander Van Ness. He and the other jurors tussle over various pieces of evidence and their meaning, with each of the other jurors trying to convince Van Ness that Miyamoto's guilt of premeditated murder is clear beyond a reasonable doubt because he's not trustworthy. Van Ness isn't buying it.
    • When they haven't reached any decision by 6 p.m., Ed Soames announces that the jury hasn't reached a verdict and people can come back at 9 a.m. the next day if they want an update.
  • Chapter 31

    • Ishmael Chambers drives to his mother's house. While he's there, the power comes back on.
    • Ishmael spends some time remembering his father.
    • Then, he decides to read Hatsue's letter again (because why not?).
    • He reflects that Hatsue had admired part of him once, but he believes that part of him has been missing for some time.
    • He then goes out walking and finds himself back at the hollowed out cedar tree that had been his secret meeting place with Hatsue. He realizes that his days of hanging out in the tree are over.
    • Then, he goes straight to Hatsue, who is staying with her parents, and shows her the records he'd pilfered from the coast guard office.
  • Chapter 32

    • Since it was too late to bring the evidence to the judge, the Imadas, Hatsue, and Ishmael sit around discussing what is likely to happen next. Ishmael is predicting a mistrial.
    • When Ishmael leaves, Hatsue follows him outside. She indicates that she is grateful, and in return he just asks that she remember him a little bit when she's old. She kisses him and tells him to go find someone to marry, have kids, and start livin'.
    • Hatsue shows up at his mom's house (where he spent the night) early the next day and suggests that they go looking for evidence that Carl Heine had tied up a lantern to the mast of his boat, which would corroborate Kabuo's story that Carl had called him over for a dead battery.
    • Ishmael suggests that they look at Carl's boat before the jury reconvenes at 8 a.m.
    • They go to Art Moran, show him the shipping records, and convince him to check out the boat, which has been locked up since the investigation began.
    • Abel, Art, and Ishmael go together to search for this new evidence (Art suggests that Hatsue stay out of it, given her relationship to the defendant).
    • At first, it's no dice—at least, they don't find a lantern. However, upon a closer examination, they realize that there are cut lashings where a lantern had likely been tied up. They also see blood, which they hypothesize was from Carl's cut hand (for those keeping score, those are two points that corroborate with Kabuo's story).
    • They collectively realize that Carl had likely been up there cutting down the lantern when the wave from the freighter hit the boat, causing him (and the lantern) to fall overboard. On the way down, they conjecture, Carl had hit his head. They take a look at the port side gunnel and find a fracture with three small hairs in the crack.
    • Art says he will bring the hairs to the coroner to determine if they are from Carl...
    • By 10:45 that morning, the jury has been released and the charges against Kabuo have been dismissed in light of the new evidence.
    • Upon Kabuo's release, he shares a long kiss with Hatsue, which Ishmael captures in a photo for the story he plans to write up about the end of the trial.
    • Ishmael then goes back to his office to write the story. He imagines Carl's final moments as he sits down to write.