Rated of 5
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
This tender story between Henry, a Chinese-American and Keiko, a Japanese-American, who fall in love in Seattle during WWII and are then separated by the internment camps, is an engaging read. The book is written in alternating time from Henry's point of view as a 13 yr-old, and that of a man in his 50's in the mid-1980's who has recently lost his wife. Notably, when as here, a novel is set within two time periods, one part of the narrative often suffers by comparison. That is not so in this case, as each portion of the tale is equally strong, vivid in description, and believable in the way the characters act. Throughout the book, the tragic circumstances of what was done to the Japanese in the Pacific Northwest during the war is pointedly conveyed without overwhelming the underlying love story.
One of the strongest aspects of the novel is the author's depiction of his characters. You can feel the fierce national pride of Henry's father that motivates his hatred of the Japanese who are at war with China and causes him to treat Henry in a way that may seem inexplicably cruel to a modern reader's sensibilities. In the same vein, the reader feels the struggle of Henry's mother to support her son within the strictures of her old world relationship with her husband and the accompanying fear for her family should they viewed as supporting the Japanese in America.
In sum, I would recommend this book for the redemptive nature of the story and the vivid portrayal of the devastating effects of a period of American history not often discussed.