The story takes place in the 1950's on San Pedro island off the coast of Washington. The story begins in a courtroom on December 6, 1954, the day before the anniversary of Pearl Harbor but flashes through different time periods and is told mostly through Ishmael Chambers, the newspaper reporter. Kabuo Miyamoto is a Japanese-American accused of killing fellow fisherman Carl Heine. There is a snowstorm outside and most of the members of the small town are attending the hearing. Carl was found dead caught in the net of his boat and the police officers suspect someone killed him and are quick to place the blame on Kabuo. The story flashes back to before World War II and talks about how the residents of the island came without money and they grew strawberries for a living. To try to decrease prejudice every year a Japanese girl would be named princess of the strawberry festival until in 1942 when all the Japanese Americans we forced to go to internment camps. The story flashes back to the courtroom again where Hatsue is thinking about how she Kabuo met in an internment camp and then married. Then Ishmael is thinking about his childhood when he and Hatsue used to talk and kiss but now she will not speak to him. Then Carl's mother, Etta, takes the stand and talks about how Kabou's father used to pay Etta's husband money to use his land since a person of Japanese descent could not own land. Kabou's family is sent away to internment camps before they can make their final payment to own the land. Etta sold the land to Ole Jurgenson when her husband died. When Kabuo returns from war he wants to pay the final payment for the land but he is too late. Later when he learns Ole has put the farm back up for sale Kabou wants to buy it but Carl has already repurchased the land. The story then goes back and forth with evidence, some that proves Kabuo guilty and some that proves him innocent. The storm outside has caused the electricity to go out in the courtroom and causes a break in the trial. While Ishmael is driving around taking pictures to document the storm he sees his old love Hatsue and offers her a ride. She tells him that her husbands trial is not fair and he should write an article about it in his newspaper. After dropping her off Ismael goes to the lighthouse coast guard station and finds out what happened to Carl. It was foggy and a large freighter had come through and made waves that were big enough to push him overboard. Ishmael writes a story about it hoping to please Hatsue but also not wanting to write it because many of the islanders do not like the Japanese and he does not want to be on there bad side. Eventually the truth comes out and Kabuo is set free.
1. Do you think that people today are still prejudiced? Are there any examples you can think of that show how a person's ethnicity, gender, social status, etc. possibly changed the outcome of their courtcase?
2. Many of the characters in this novel are changed by what they have seen while fighting in the war. How do you think you would react if you were to fight in a war or have you seen the impact of fighting in a war directly?