Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

3367956From Goodreads:    In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry's world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While "scholarshipping" at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship - and innocent love - that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel's dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice - words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

My Thoughts:

-    I feel awful that I had no idea about this bit of our history until now. We never talked about it in any of my history classes, and I've just never heard about it. I feel like this is a really sad thing. It is something that can't just be swept under the rug.

-    "Chinglish" ha ha ha ha!

-    The first time I heard the title of this book, I judged. I thought it was boring and long and a dumb title. After reading the book, I feel completely different. The title is perfect for this book. The book is a story of bitter and sweet moments.

-    Keiko and Henry's relationship was beautiful. It was very sweet and subtle, and I found it very tender. I loved it! Jamie Ford knows how to tell a romance! My heart ached and rejoiced for Keiko and Henry. I wanted to scream at times, but I also gushed at times. 

-    I will never forgive Henry's father! He was a stubborn and selfish man, and I just...grrrrrr!

-    I felt a little sad for Ethel. While I felt that Henry loved her and was devoted to her, I also felt like Ethel was always 2nd best. It was like Henry just settled for Ethel because he gave up on Keiko. 

-    I loved the history, culture, and wonderful story. This book was amazing, and I'm really glad I read it. I wasn't going to, but after hearing the author speak about his story and his book, I decided to give it a try. 

-    I really enjoyed the bit of jazz that was speckled throughout the book. I play clarinet and sax, and I used to play in a jazz band, so I really appreciated and loved that aspect of the story.

-    There were a few sub characters that I just loved! Sheldon was such an amazing friend. The lunch lady was a bit of a silent hero. I really admired Keiko's father. He was a strong person. 

-    I just can't say enough about this book. I loved it, and I'm sad that I didn't take the opportunity to buy this and get it signed. Oh well! 

-    Thank you Jamie Ford, for breaking my heart and putting the pieces back together! Your story touched me. I feel like I've grown a bit as a person now that I've experienced Henry and Keiko's story. 


  1. Yay! So happy to hear this! And can you lead the discussion tonight? I'm feeling SO out of it!

  2. I'm so glad you loved it! It's going higher on my to-read list!