by Jamie Ford (Goodreads Author)
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published January 27th 2009 by Ballantine Books
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Finished Book: April 7, 2011
About the Book
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 on this book
This book had been on my To-Read list for a long time. And I can proudly say that this was my first Kindle book I purchased. My favorite genre of books is WWII fiction, so I couldn't wait to read this one. It gives a different perspective of this time period. Until a couple of years ago, I had no idea that Japanese internment camps ever existed. I still question why this wasn't taught in History class?? These camps make me question what our government was thinking to lock up American citizens out of fear of the unknown.
The book has a delicate mix of historical facts and love. It is a love story between two teenagers, one Japanese and the other Chinese. It is an unlikely love, but one that endures through many years. What I liked most about this book was seeing into what life was like for not only the Japanese, but the Chinese during this time. Many of these people were born in America, but felt like foreigners in their own country. Where did their devotion lie? Was it to their ancestral country or here?