This novel applies to the real world because it is a modern-day mystery novel that explains the injustice towards the Japanese-American people during WWII. However, this novel is much more than that. It holds the crucial wisdom and advice that is necessary in order to live in happiness and contenment: you have to let go of the past. Ishmael Chambers leads a bitter and cynical existence, never truly living because he chooses to dwell in the past. His mother and ex-lover encourage him to look to the future, imploring him to get married and have children. His sense of betrayal though prevents him from trusting others and finding new love. However, in the end, he lets go of the past and accepts the present. This will allow him to look to the future. Ishmael is the symbol of those who choose to live in the past. David Guterson uses him to influence his readers to enjoy and thrive in the present, and to learn from, not live, in the past.