In the opening pages of Jamie Fords 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 Seattles 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 Henrys 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 friendshipand innocent lovethat 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 hotels dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe familys belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voicewords 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.
A video tour through Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
An exceptionally well-written historical fiction novel with many complex themes intertwined throughout the narrative. Its multifaceted, well-paced plot is sure to put it at the top of many a book club's reading list, and it is likely to attract a wide audience. Highly recommended! (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Huntington News - David M. Kinchen
If you liked Snow Falling on Cedars, you'll enjoy reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I wouldn't be surprised if both Oprah and major Hollywood studios are in contact with Jamie Ford.
Blogcritics - Wisteria Leigh
Memorable characters throughout support Henry including Mrs. Beatty, the cafeteria person at his school, who has a hidden heart of gold and Sheldon the sage old sax player of Jazz. A beautiful endearing story — don’t miss this one.
The wartime persecution of Japanese immigrants is presented well, but the flatness of the narrative and Ford's reliance on numerous cultural clichés make for a disappointing read.
A timely debut that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don’t repeat those injustices.
[A] vivid picture of a confusing and critical time in American history. Recommended for all fiction collections.
School Library Journal (Adult Books for Teens)
While the novel is less perfect as literature than John Hamamura's Color of the Sea, the setting and quietly moving, romantic story are commendable.
Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut."
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Anon Dreadfully Boring I had to read this book for class and I got so tired. This story moves terribly slow. I could barely finish it because I would lose interest. The book was dull and lifeless. I would NEVER EVER recommend this story to ANYONE, even if i despised that... Read More
Rated of 5
by Lawrence L. Collier I Am an American...No Matter What! Most young people today would not understand the prejudice that happened as a result of W.W. II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. But despite the evils of war, there are always heroes, there are always people falling in love and helping others... Read More
Rated of 5
by CarolK Clash of Cultures Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford creates a clash in my mind. What is an easy story to read, due to the author's flowing narrative style, contrasts with its underlying serious subject of a world in conflict. On the one hand, it... Read More
Rated of 5
by Valerie F. Disappointing I wanted to like this book, since the premise of it sounded interesting to me. Unfortunately, it was mostly fluff, with lots of unbelievable plot points, ridiculous coincidences, and characters who didn't feel real. Disappointing.
Rated of 5
by Dorothy Through the eyes outside the walls Having been in the internment camp myself, Tule Lake and Heart Mountain, it was intriguing to read about how someone from the outside viewed the entire episode of injustice from the perspective of a non-Japanese. The love story and cultural... Read More
Rated of 5
by R Sible Hotel Smarmy Obviously written for early teens. Simple minded and unengaging. Clumsy and amateurish.
Japanese-Americans in World War II
People of Japanese descent were the victims of racial prejudice from the time
they first started to arrive in the USA, and USA-controlled Hawaii, in the mid
to late 19th century to work as laborers. By the early 1900s, some
Japanese immigrants had started to lease land and sharecrop - California reacted
by passing The Alien Land Law of 1913 which banned the purchase of land by
Japanese. A little over a decade later, the 1924 US Immigration Act banned
immigration from Japan.
By the start of World War II, anti-Japanese sentiment was high, particularly
among the farming and fishing communities competing with the Japanese for both
jobs and commerce. The panic and hysteria following Pearl Harbor in 1941
increased the public's overall distrust of their Japanese neighbors.
On February 19, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed
This inspiring memoir following the Author from age twelve to twenty-two, illuminating a complex, dark time in Chinas history as it tells the compelling story of one girls difficult but determined coming-of-age during the Cultural Revolution.
Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric -a masterpiece of suspense-- one that leaves us shaken and changed.
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