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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

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In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese American girl from his childhood in the 1940s—Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family were evacuated to the internment camps, she and Henry could only hope that their promise to each other would be kept. Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel's basement for the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure. His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, for country.


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In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese American girl from his childhood in the 1940s—Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family were evacuated to the internment camps, she and Henry could only hope that their promise to each other would be kept. Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel's basement for the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure. His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, for country.

30 review for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    "Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" is as saccharine and overly sentimental as the title suggests. It is historical fiction for the Nicholas Sparks set -- an emotionally heavy-handed novel that is well told, but not particularly well written. There are some diamonds in the rough, though: the historical aspects of the novel are very interesting; the relationships depicted in the book, while not always believable, are complex; and, the issues related to cultural identity and racial "Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" is as saccharine and overly sentimental as the title suggests. It is historical fiction for the Nicholas Sparks set -- an emotionally heavy-handed novel that is well told, but not particularly well written. There are some diamonds in the rough, though: the historical aspects of the novel are very interesting; the relationships depicted in the book, while not always believable, are complex; and, the issues related to cultural identity and racial discrimination in the States during WWII are very well detailed. All in all, "Hotel" is a great story couched in an okay novel. Ford is a promising writer who, I feel, needs to trust his readers more. That is, he needs to let us feel without trying SO hard to manipulate those feelings.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nan

    Original review posted: Mar 19, 09 I have to admit that I did not like this book. Mr. Ford is a decent writer, and while he did research 1942 fairly extensively, he did a crappy job portraying 1986. I was alive in '86. I was ten, in fact. While my memory of the time is going to be different than that of a 50 year old character, I wound up being very tired of the repeated anachronisms. In one paragraph--on page four of the book, I believe--the narrator tells the readers that the main character's Original review posted: Mar 19, 09 I have to admit that I did not like this book. Mr. Ford is a decent writer, and while he did research 1942 fairly extensively, he did a crappy job portraying 1986. I was alive in '86. I was ten, in fact. While my memory of the time is going to be different than that of a 50 year old character, I wound up being very tired of the repeated anachronisms. In one paragraph--on page four of the book, I believe--the narrator tells the readers that the main character's son is seeing a grief counselor and participating in an Internet support group. In 1986, that sort of thing would have been highly unlikely. Further, in that same paragraph, he tells us the main character's deceased wife is buried in the same cemetary with Bruce and Brandon Lee--and this is seven years before Brandon's death. I'm not the kind of reader that gets easily annoyed by poor detail editing--but I am annoyed when sloppy research (or a failure to do any sort of research) leads to misrepresentations of the setting. I found this book to be very sloppy indeed. Edit posted: April 21, 2013 After years of getting comments and feedback on this review, I will take the time to edit it for two important details. 1. Many of the errors that I found irritating were fixed in the paperback edition of the book. I would argue that this means that others also found the errors irritating that they were, indeed, errors. 2. Ford replies to the internet issue as one of his FAQ replies on his website. He states: "I'm afraid I have to reveal just how geeky I truly am. I was on Compuserve in 1984, with an old coupler modem like you saw in the movie Wargames. Back when you had to pay $100 to sign up and were charged by the hour. Just because most people weren't online then, doesn't mean no one was. Just the few, the proud, the computer geeks..." You can see the comment here.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Set in Seattle during the Japanese internment during WW2. This book has a sweeping feel to it. It starts out slow - but not slow in the sense who feel like you are waiting for paint to dry - but slow in the "This is really going somewhere" kind of way. It does go somewhere by the way. Once the ball gets rolling, this book sweeps you up into the lives of two friends who made a promise to see each other again. The book begins as Henry Lee stands in front of the Panama Hotel. This hotel has been Set in Seattle during the Japanese internment during WW2. This book has a sweeping feel to it. It starts out slow - but not slow in the sense who feel like you are waiting for paint to dry - but slow in the "This is really going somewhere" kind of way. It does go somewhere by the way. Once the ball gets rolling, this book sweeps you up into the lives of two friends who made a promise to see each other again. The book begins as Henry Lee stands in front of the Panama Hotel. This hotel has been boarded up for years but a new owner has discovered something inside - the belongings of Japanese families. Their possessions that were left behind when they were rounded up and taken to internment camps. As he stands watching, a simple act happens...the owner opens up a Japanese parasol. This act takes him back. We have all experienced this. A scent, a food, a location, a sound can take us back to our youth, or to the home of a loved one. For Henry Lee, the open parasol takes him back to the 1940s. Henry is raised by a father who wants his Chinese son to be an "American" at all costs. Henry through a "Scholarship" is sent to school where the "American/White" kids ignore him. But there is one person who does not ignore him and that it a young Japanese girl named Keiko. They form a friendship. A type of young love if you will. Sweet and innocent. But then Keiko and her family are rounded up and she is whisked away. Henry wonders "Is this her Parasol?" Could more of her families belongings be inside? Can he come to terms with what happened so long ago? Can he rebuild her relationship with his son? I thought this book was really good. Such a great book club book. So many discussions to be had. There are elements of friendship, love, loss, betrayal, longing, guilt, loneliness, etc. See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    I loved this book, but I had one minor annoyance with it. The author had 4 anachronisms: the book is set (in part) in 1986, and yet the son is in an "on-line" grief support group, and used the internet to look up a lost friend, and there is talk twice about digital conversion of records to CDs. This book is told by a 50+ year old second generation Chinese-American. It is told in two different time periods, and flows back and forth between the 1940's to 1986 seemlessly. It is the story of a young I loved this book, but I had one minor annoyance with it. The author had 4 anachronisms: the book is set (in part) in 1986, and yet the son is in an "on-line" grief support group, and used the internet to look up a lost friend, and there is talk twice about digital conversion of records to CDs. This book is told by a 50+ year old second generation Chinese-American. It is told in two different time periods, and flows back and forth between the 1940's to 1986 seemlessly. It is the story of a young chinese boy who is thrown together with a young japanese girl in Seattle during WW2. It is the story of their friendship/love, and also that of the other relationships that the boy has: his Chinese parents, a local black jazz musician, and later with his own son and son's fiance. Very well written, and very touching. It gave an interesting insight into the Chinese views of the war, along with the effects, and the aftermath, of the Japanese internment on the Seattle area.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    For me Jamie Ford's heralded, multiple award-winning Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was an entirely luke warm reading experience from start to finish. The emotional heat that should have brewed within a story of this nature, considering the volatile subject matter, failed to materialize. I never tasted the venom of injustice as I should have. The details of Japanese internment in America during WWII was certainly interesting to read about, especially since I know so little about it. For me Jamie Ford's heralded, multiple award-winning Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was an entirely luke warm reading experience from start to finish. The emotional heat that should have brewed within a story of this nature, considering the volatile subject matter, failed to materialize. I never tasted the venom of injustice as I should have. The details of Japanese internment in America during WWII was certainly interesting to read about, especially since I know so little about it. Seeing our country, a country founded on freedom, take it away from its own citizens is chilling. I just didn't feel the chill in Ford's words as much as I could and should have. Otherwise, it was a lovely story. A quaint and well-written love story indeed. I did have a hard time rooting for the romantic connection between these two children. They were just too young for me to think in those terms, and maybe it wasn't intended to be so intimate. Certainly their relationship is sweet and I felt myself pulling for them, but I was pulling with all the strength and enthusiasm I would if I were pitted in a game of tug-o-war against a two year old. Regardless of my less than perfect reading experience, I think this would be a great book for someone looking for a 20th century historical romance. Perhaps someone who likes YA romance and who doesn't mind it being set against a background of truth and terror for Japanese Americans during World War II.

  6. 4 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was an easy book to get swept into. Henry Lee's search into his past is triggered by a discovery , at the Panama Hotel, of belongings from Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during WWII. Among those belongings, Henry is hoping to find one specific memory which connects him to the love of his youth, the Japanese-American girl, Keiko Okabe. Can Henry recover what he's lost 40 years ago? After all those years, will it even look Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was an easy book to get swept into. Henry Lee's search into his past is triggered by a discovery , at the Panama Hotel, of belongings from Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during WWII. Among those belongings, Henry is hoping to find one specific memory which connects him to the love of his youth, the Japanese-American girl, Keiko Okabe. Can Henry recover what he's lost 40 years ago? After all those years, will it even look the same? Both the Chinese and especially the Japanese districts of Seattle (and the people who move within them) come alive in Ford's moving story. With echoes of Edith Wharton transposed to a different time and place, family, tradition and friendship highlight this beautifully crafted historical novel. Great to meet Jamie Ford at the High Plains Bookfest in Billings in October!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Hope Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an absorbing story of hope and love. It is set against the politically tumultuous period of World War II, where we experience the alienation forces between the Chinese, Japanese and America people as they live together in the United States. Henry is a Chinese-American boy who lives in Chinatown, Seattle and is close friends with the only other non-white student at his school. That friend is Keiko, a Japanese-American girl who lives in Seattles Hope Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an absorbing story of hope and love. It is set against the politically tumultuous period of World War II, where we experience the alienation forces between the Chinese, Japanese and America people as they live together in the United States. Henry is a Chinese-American boy who lives in Chinatown, Seattle and is close friends with the only other non-white student at his school. That friend is Keiko, a Japanese-American girl who lives in Seattle’s Nihonmachi (Japantown) district. The story very interestingly brings the foreign and age-old conflicts between China and Japan to US shores and tarnishes the family acceptance of any relationship, even though Henry and Keiko are both naturalised American citizens. With the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941 and the declaration of war between the USA and Japan, there is an overwhelming division between the Japanese and all other communities. As a consequence Japanese immigrants are interned in camps, their personal belongings are stored in the Hotel on the Corner, The Panama Hotel, and their remaining properties and businesses are looted. The story covers an aspect of the war that I hadn’t really appreciated, how Japanese immigrants were treated in the United States after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. The relationship between Henry and Keiko is developed from the racial minority connection but grows into a genuine attraction and ultimately love. The strength of their relationship will be tested as it faces immense political and cultural forces that drive alienation. The efforts of how Henry tried to maintain his connection with Keiko, even visiting her in the camps in disguise, is very touching and well portrayed. The Japanese are relocated inland and he loses all contact, although he never forgets and never stops wondering what may have been. So this is a gentle love story against all the odds. They created memories and moments in their short time together that will never be forgotten. A piece of his heart was forever given to Keiko. The novel alternates between the 1940s and 1986. In 1986 the Panama Hotel is the centre of refurbishment as it has lain abandoned since it was boarded up during the war. When its doors are opened they discover the belongings of the interned Japanese people from 1942. Henry's memories of Keiko come rushing back and he searches the belongings desperately looking for a memento, a rare record, that he shared with Keiko. He wonders and starts off on a mission to see if he can track her down or at least find out what happened to her. I would recommend this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ariella

    Oy vey. I really did want to like this book. It sounded like the perfect book for my mood: Not too highfalutin or literary, but a good story I which I can immerse myself and escape to a different time and place. As I went on Goodreads a few days ago to add the book to my list of 'currently reading' however, I came across a number of really bad reviews. Disappointed, and somewhat deflated, I nevertheless read on trying to ignore the negativity, stay positive and try to like the story and get into Oy vey. I really did want to like this book. It sounded like the perfect book for my mood: Not too highfalutin or literary, but a good story I which I can immerse myself and escape to a different time and place. As I went on Goodreads a few days ago to add the book to my list of 'currently reading' however, I came across a number of really bad reviews. Disappointed, and somewhat deflated, I nevertheless read on trying to ignore the negativity, stay positive and try to like the story and get into the characters. Well, I got to page 67. And reviewers who gave bad reviews: you were right. My first suspicions about the writing came in one of the first chapters where one page after the other the paragraphs start the same way: Henry wasn't sure which was... Worse, (pg 27) and ... More .frustrating (pg 29). Which just led me thinking: Where was the editor here? I even read through this sentence on page 33: The sum total of Henry's Japanese friends happened to be a number that rhymed with hero. What?!? What kind of sentence is that? From an adult? Someone trying to evoke the feel of a Chinese immigrant to the US in the 1940's?! That kind of writing is a word that rhymes with spit. Another 30 pages into the book and I thought: why bother? The author clearly hasn't been able to capture my attention, I am not drawn into the story or the characters and while I really wasn't looking for prose of genius, the are minimum requirements of what I am willing to read. (Maybe this book would be better as an audio?) So I put down. I give it one star and a new title: Prose on the Precipice of Barfy and Saccharain

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    This was my first ever audiobook. It was a good choice, listening to it being read with Chinese accents from Henry and his family made it even more interesting. This is the story of Henry, an American born Chinese American and his family, including his dogmatic and anti-Japanese father. Keiko is a second generation Japanese American. The two meet in a special school where they have won scholarships because of their high intellect. They are the two OUTCASTS in an otherwise all white school. It is This was my first ever audiobook. It was a good choice, listening to it being read with Chinese accents from Henry and his family made it even more interesting. This is the story of Henry, an American born Chinese American and his family, including his dogmatic and anti-Japanese father. Keiko is a second generation Japanese American. The two meet in a special school where they have won scholarships because of their high intellect. They are the two OUTCASTS in an otherwise all white school. It is the height of the war an there is much hatred towards the Japanese. The two are very young, only about 12 and 13 but they build a strong friendship. Henry has to lie in order to see Keiko, her family has no problem with Henry. Then the bill is signed that sent thousands of Japanese from the west coast, in this case Seattle, to internment camps, many in Colorado. The two try to keep in touch but eventually the ties are broken Henry never gets over Keiko and when his present wife dies he eventually tracks her down, with the help of his son. The two have a final poignant meeting. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to all fans of historical fiction.

  10. 5 out of 5

    مرجان محمدی

    :نامه نویسنده به خوانندگان ایرانی Dear friend, When I heard that my debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was going to be published in Persian, my first thought was, Fantastic! Perhaps I could attend the Tehran Book Festival. You see I would love to visit your country. Ive had friends travel to Iran in the past and theyve told me wonderful thingsabout the history, the culture, and especially the kind and generous people. Also, whenever the leaders of my country say theres someplace :نامه نویسنده به خوانندگان ایرانی Dear friend, When I heard that my debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was going to be published in Persian, my first thought was, “Fantastic! Perhaps I could attend the Tehran Book Festival.” You see I would love to visit your country. I’ve had friends travel to Iran in the past and they’ve told me wonderful things—about the history, the culture, and especially the kind and generous people. Also, whenever the leaders of my country say there’s someplace Americans shouldn’t go, I want to go there even more. Because I believe literature can, and should, transcend politics. And because I believe readers—lovers of books, wherever they live, are the best kind of people—curious and compassionate, creative and filled with boundless hope. I firmly believe that there is connectivity through storytelling. Or as the great poet, Hafez, once said, “Found nothing more joyful than the sound of words of love.” So as a writer (and a reader) I’m daydreaming about a better day, not too far into the future, when perhaps I can be there in person, to thank you for picking up my book—a noble romantic tragedy, a recollection of a forgotten and somewhat shameful chapter in US history, and an innocent love story about people who are seemingly different, but really the same. Thank you to Tandis for publishing this book, and a special thank you to Marjan Mohammadi for her hard work and expertise in translating this story. I hope you enjoy my work and if so, I’d love to hear from you. Kindest regards, Jamie Ford P.S. Tehran Book Festival. One of these days… دوست عزیز، وقتی شنیدم رمان اولم، «هتلی در کنج تلخ و شیرین» به زبان فارسی چاپ می‌شود، اولین چیزی که به فکرم رسید این بود: «عالی است! شاید بتوانم در نمایشگاه کتاب تهران شرکت کنم.» می‌دانید، خیلی دوست دارم کشور شما را ببینم. بعضی از دوستانم پیش از این به ایران سفر کرده و چیزهای شگفت‌انگیزی تعریف کرده‌اند؛ از تاریخ، فرهنگ و مخصوصاً از مردم مهربان و سخاوتمندش. همچنین، هر وقت رهبران کشور من می‌گویند ایران جایی است که بهتر است آمریکایی‌ها به آن سفر نکنند، من بیشتر مشتاق این سفر می‌شوم. زیرا معتقدم ادبیات می‌تواند و باید از سیاست فراتر رود. همچنین باور دارم کتابخوان‌ها، عاشقان کتاب، هر جای این دنیا که زندگی کنند، از بهترین آدم‌ها هستند، کنجکاو و مهربان، خلاق و سرشار از امیدی بی‌حد و حصر. من تردید ندارم که قصه‌گویی برای ایجاد ارتباط است. همان‌طور که شاعر بزرگ، حافظ می‌گوید: «از صدای سخن عشق ندیدم خوشتر.» ازاین‌رو به‌عنوان نویسنده (و البته کتاب‌خوان) رؤیای روزی بهتر را در سر می‌پرورانم که چندان دور نباشد و آن‌وقت شاید بتوانم به آنجا بیایم و از شما تشکر کنم که کتاب مرا انتخاب کردید، کتابی که درباره‌ی یک تراژدی عاشقانه‌ی باشکوه است و فصلی فراموش‌شده و تا حدی شرم‌آور از تاریخ آمریکا را در خاطره‌ها زنده می‌کند. کتابی که داستان عشق معصومانه‌ی آدم‌هایی است که در ظاهر متفاوت‌اند، اما در باطن یکی هستند. سپاسگزارم از نشر تندیس برای چاپ این کتاب و سپاس ویژه از مرجان محمدی برای کار سختی که انجام داده است و از خبرگی‌اش در ترجمه‌ی این داستان. امیدوارم از کتابم لذت ببرید و اگر لذت بردید مشتاق شنیدن نظرات‌تان هستم. با بهترین آرزوها، جِیمی فورد پی‌نوشت: به نمایشگاه کتاب تهران چیزی نمانده است...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh

    Switching between 1942 and 1986 this is an easy read on a complex subject. A historical romance with a Romeo & Juliet twist, this time the doomed love affair between Henry, a Chinese American and Keiko, a Japanese American; its historical focus the internment of Japanese Americans during WW2. I loved the inclusion of Seattles music scene, the symbolism of the lost jazz record interwoven throughout, the passages that escalated it above a pure romance novel. (view spoiler)[ In one, after the Switching between 1942 and 1986 this is an easy read on a complex subject. A historical romance with a Romeo & Juliet twist, this time the doomed love affair between Henry, a Chinese American and Keiko, a Japanese American; its historical focus the internment of Japanese Americans during WW2. I loved the inclusion of Seattle’s music scene, the symbolism of the lost jazz record interwoven throughout, the passages that escalated it above a pure romance novel. (view spoiler)[ In one, after the Japanese had all been trucked away a heartsick Sheldon (Henry’s musician friend) takes his sax & performs a concert to a ghost town - I could almost hear his soulful melody echoing in the silent streets. In another Henry searches through a mountain of personal belongs stored in the Panama Hotel, forgotten & coated in 40 years of dust. (hide spoiler)] It shone exploring the dynamics of a typical Chinese American family. Henry’s father with his clear allegiance to China coupled with his hatred for the Japanese, his mother’s struggle to bring together a husband & son so opposed in their beliefs. ’Saang Jan’ you are a stranger to me. I can’t say the same for it’s portrayal of Kioko’s family. Their stoic acceptance (bordering on cheerful resignation) over the loss of all they owned while very commendable rang false.(view spoiler)[ and their fate left unresolved. This is more Henry’s story than Keiko’s, fair enough. Still, a glaring omission was the lack of detail on what happened to Keiko’s family after their release (hide spoiler)] As a romance this is a 4 star read, for plot & character development a 3. I guess I wanted more substance, a little more bitter & a little less sweet. “How could they sit back and do nothing when this many people were being taken away – when they could be next?” “It was the record, their record. Oscar Holden’s ‘Alley Cat Strut.” It shouted at the night, louder than the storm.” Notes: Canada also interred it’s Japanese Canadians during WW2 as told in The Jade Peony They say all is fair in Love and War - it’s understandable that alliances were questioned – Still books like these bring to light a subject worth reflecting on.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aoibhínn

    Set in Seattle, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet tells of the forbidden friendship between a Chinese-American boy named Henry Lee and a Japanese-American girl named Keiko Okabe during the Second World War. Henry and Keiko are both just twelve years old when they become friends in 1942. Life is difficult for both of them. They face racism and prejudice on a daily basis and Henry's father does not approve of the friendship. After the devastation of Pearl Harbour, the US government decides Set in Seattle, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet tells of the forbidden friendship between a Chinese-American boy named Henry Lee and a Japanese-American girl named Keiko Okabe during the Second World War. Henry and Keiko are both just twelve years old when they become friends in 1942. Life is difficult for both of them. They face racism and prejudice on a daily basis and Henry's father does not approve of the friendship. After the devastation of Pearl Harbour, the US government decides to send all the people of Japanese decent to live in internment camps until the war is over. Henry and Keiko find themselves separated. I really loved this book! Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a beautiful, fascinating, tender and moving story from beginning to end. Like the title suggests, the story is such a bitter-sweet tale, heartbreaking at times and so warm and sweet in others. This novel is set during two time periods, the 1940's and 1986. I found both periods equally compelling to read about. It is incredibly rare to find a historical fiction novel about World War Two that isn't set in Europe! Before reading this book, I knew nothing about how badly the Japanese in America were treated during the war. I was quite shocked by this. I have to admit I cried a few times while reading this book! All the characters were vivid, well-developed and realistic. I really loved the characters of Henry, Keiko and Sheldon, and really cared about what happened to them. I've just got one gripe with the novel. I would have liked to know what happened in Keiko's life during the intervening years while they were apart. I found it really hard to put this novel down and I look forward to reading more from this author! Five Stars!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I'm always a little behind the curve when it comes to reading blockbuster NYT bestsellers. I think a part of me resists because I love finding "little" books that deserve kudos and talking about them. But I had heard so many good things about THE HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET that I bought it, though I sat on it a while before I cracked it open to read. Once I did, I was hooked instantly by the wonderful character of Henry Lee, a 12-year-old boy in Seattle's Chinatown during the early I'm always a little behind the curve when it comes to reading blockbuster NYT bestsellers. I think a part of me resists because I love finding "little" books that deserve kudos and talking about them. But I had heard so many good things about THE HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET that I bought it, though I sat on it a while before I cracked it open to read. Once I did, I was hooked instantly by the wonderful character of Henry Lee, a 12-year-old boy in Seattle's Chinatown during the early years of America's involvement in WWII. Henry's relationship with Keiko, a Japanese girl at his otherwise white school, is frowned upon by his father (in fact, he doesn't even tell his parents about Keiko for a long time). I so enjoyed seeing the boy Henry was (in the 1940s) interspersed with more modern chapters (1980s) so I also viewed the man he became. A sweet and eye-opening tale about love and humanity during an uncivil era. Highly recommended for readers of all ages.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, Release Date 1/27/2009, $24.00 I've just finished reading Jamie Ford's forthcoming novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and am still basking in the glow. The characters are fully realized, the title is a real attention grabber, and the story fleshed out with plenty of local and period detail. Ford provides an intimate look at life on the homefront during WWII from the uncommon perpective of an earnest Chinese-American boy and his Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, Release Date 1/27/2009, $24.00 I've just finished reading Jamie Ford's forthcoming novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and am still basking in the glow. The characters are fully realized, the title is a real attention grabber, and the story fleshed out with plenty of local and period detail. Ford provides an intimate look at life on the homefront during WWII from the uncommon perpective of an earnest Chinese-American boy and his Japanese-American school friend. I think Henry and Keiko are two of the most engaging characters I've come across in a long while and I will not soon forget them, nor Sheldon, the saxophone player who befreinds them. I'm not the type of reader that necessarily longs for a happy ending, but this one certainly satisfies.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid

    Beautiful love story in wartime USA. I had no idea how the Japanese were treated in the USA during the war, but of course it was no different from how other countries treated the enemies that lived among them. The only thing I didn't like was that Henry was portrayed as an 80 year old while he was only 56 in the story.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mauoijenn

    I am Chinese This was a touching story of friendship, love and loss. I enjoyed this very much. Great characters, rich history and beautifully written. My local library picked this as the second book in their book club. I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks of it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Okay, I am not the target audience for this book. One of my favorite teachers in high school was sent to one of the internment camps as a child. Ive met Fred Korematsu, whose challenge to internship went all the way to the Supreme Court back in the day. Ive read that opinion. I know several members of the excellent legal team that got his conviction vacated. I know the Justice Department lied to the Supreme Court about the known danger the Japanese-Americans represented. My grandmother bought a Okay, I am not the target audience for this book. One of my favorite teachers in high school was sent to one of the internment camps as a child. I’ve met Fred Korematsu, whose challenge to internship went all the way to the Supreme Court back in the day. I’ve read that opinion. I know several members of the excellent legal team that got his conviction vacated. I know the Justice Department lied to the Supreme Court about the “known danger” the Japanese-Americans represented. My grandmother bought a house on 10th and Jefferson from a neighbor being sent away, and my boss’s family took in an ebony and ivory piano from neighbors being removed that he later, at no small expense, had restored and donated to a Buddhist temple in Wapato. I love George Takei and have exchanged tweets with him. I know about the internment camps. I am deeply ashamed. I am not the target audience. I am no fan of the sweet and sentimental; of pathos and wistfulness; of romance and thwarted love. And I despise Orson Scott Card, who helped get this book written, for his stalwart work on behalf of homophobia. Science fiction writers who are on the wrong side of history belong in the special hell. So I didn’t like the book, but understand, seriously, I am not in the target audience. I suspect, though I don’t know, that the author did not mean to write about the Japanese internment. He meant to write a thwarted love story. The author interview in the back of the book disclaims any political intent, which baffles me. Given the opportunity to clearly condemn – or even defend -- the internment, he evades. I don’t get that. The most he can come up with is "beloved president Reagan apologized." When asked if he saw a parallel between the calls to close the border or remove Muslim Americans, he seemed astonished that there might be one. I do not love President Reagan. The parallel is bleeding. If I hadn’t been reading this for my reading group, I never would have picked it up. But I did, and I finished it. It’s a quick read. It’s about a guy who meets a girl, falls in love with a girl, loses a girl to the Japanese internment and his father’s racism, and moves on to be a good husband to a different woman. Who dies. Opening up our guy to find his first love. I suspect it’s one of those books that attempts to mine those “rich veins of ordinary life” I hear that non-genre literature is lovingly mining. I almost always find such books trite and cloying. This one was no exception.

  18. 5 out of 5

    K

    No. Just, no. I had pretty much decided to abandon this book unfinished when I received notification that the audiobook I had requested from the library was now available for download. Well, that clinched it. And so, in the style of Goodnight Moon, I am bidding this book good-bye. Good-bye book. Good-bye hopelessly twee title (which should have been a clue). Good-bye awkward dialogue, and good-bye emotional manipulation. Good-bye, poor cliched struggling immigrant adolescent Henry. Good-bye, No. Just, no. I had pretty much decided to abandon this book unfinished when I received notification that the audiobook I had requested from the library was now available for download. Well, that clinched it. And so, in the style of Goodnight Moon, I am bidding this book good-bye. Good-bye book. Good-bye hopelessly twee title (which should have been a clue). Good-bye awkward dialogue, and good-bye emotional manipulation. Good-bye, poor cliched struggling immigrant adolescent Henry. Good-bye, clearly doomed age-inappropriate romance. Good-bye, Henry's efforts to dodge the one-dimensional evil bullies. Good-bye, contrived coincidences. Good-bye, stock characters. Good-bye, goodreaders everywhere whose ratings of this book averaged out to 3.9. (3.9!)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ace

    I'm always seeing those posts on Facebook of kids of different cultures and races playing together, hugging each other and only seeing what they love. These are messages to the wider world that adults shouldn't really be imposing their racist, prejudicial fears on their kids. Henry and Keiko are 2 such beautiful little souls. In 1942, while the world is fighting and killing each other these two are just managing to get through the day without being picked on, smacked around or abused because one I'm always seeing those posts on Facebook of kids of different cultures and races playing together, hugging each other and only seeing what they love. These are messages to the wider world that adults shouldn't really be imposing their racist, prejudicial fears on their kids. Henry and Keiko are 2 such beautiful little souls. In 1942, while the world is fighting and killing each other these two are just managing to get through the day without being picked on, smacked around or abused because one is Chinese and the other, God forbid is Japanese. They live in America and while I would love to believe that things have changed for the better there, sadly, it appears to be getting worse. The story (Henry's story) unfolds back and forth between 1942 and 1986 and I absolutely loved it

  20. 5 out of 5

    JoAnn/QuAppelle

    I had heard lots about this book, but had not put it on my TBR list. So when I saw the audio at the library, I figured...what the heck, may as well try it! I might not have finished it if I had an alternative book in the car to read. Sometimes the reader annoyed me when he said the main character's (Henry's) words with a Chinese accent (inconsistently at that!) .... since Henry had been born in the US. I usually do not like when an author switches back and forth from one time period to another, I had heard lots about this book, but had not put it on my TBR list. So when I saw the audio at the library, I figured...what the heck, may as well try it! I might not have finished it if I had an alternative book in the car to read. Sometimes the reader annoyed me when he said the main character's (Henry's) words with a Chinese accent (inconsistently at that!) .... since Henry had been born in the US. I usually do not like when an author switches back and forth from one time period to another, but in this book it "fit". I think the author should have made Henry and Keiko a bit older...I found it impossible to accept that these "children" had such a relationship. Absolutely implausible. I also found the writing to be clumsy, full of cliches, AND I felt nothing for any of the characters. Usually I feel some connection, but not here. I found a LOT of inaccuracies in this book and many logical incongrities, but since I was driving while listening, I could not make notes on them...but I groaned a LOT! This author really needed to do better research or have an editor who knows something about history. One of the most egregious errors was when Henry's son was participating in an online grief group...in 1986!!!!! Also in 1986, a rear-projection TV in a nursing home, Someone died in 1986 but was buried in the same cemetery as a celebrity who died in 1993. He said that a Japanese sub DESTROYED an oil refinery in CA, when, in reality, it had barely damaged the refinery. Yeah, right, sure. Many online reviewers, who know a lot more about World War II than I do, really zoned in on all the the mistakes about the war. For example, Japan occupied Canton until 1945 (not 1942 as the author stated), To me, all of these errors of fact are the signs of a lazy writer. I know that with fiction, readers are expected to suspend belief, but not about FACTS! The author said, at the end, that he did not intend to make this book about the internment camps...but perhaps he should have put that statement at the beginning because I think maybe people were expecting that to be the focus of this book... Had this been a "paper" book, or if I had had another audiobook available, I probably would have abandoned it after 50 pages -- if I had even gotten that far!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karla

    A rich, tender, personal story so touching and full of history I should know, but didn't. Pulled at my heartstrings and made me longingly linger over and over the last few chapters. Set durring the height of Nihonmachi district (JapanTown) area of Seattle, Washingtom. You jump from 1986 to 1942 thoughout the story. To tell the tale of Henery Lee an intelligent, brave, 12yr old Chinese American quickly growing into a man thru struggling WWII times. He has a strained relationship with his father A rich, tender, personal story so touching and full of history I should know, but didn't. Pulled at my heartstrings and made me longingly linger over and over the last few chapters. Set durring the height of Nihonmachi district (JapanTown) area of Seattle, Washingtom. You jump from 1986 to 1942 thoughout the story. To tell the tale of Henery Lee an intelligent, brave, 12yr old Chinese American quickly growing into a man thru struggling WWII times. He has a strained relationship with his father mirroring that as a grown man in his fiftys he also struggles to open communications with his own grown son Marty. This is a rare book find for me as a closer look into the Japanese and Chinese American citizens and the bigotry and hatred they endured, because the country thought any could be spies. I gained new insight about the internment camps all Japanese citizens were evacuateed to with only possessions they could carry. Was a powerful look into American history as hearts and humanity broke down, inflicted by war and the damage to repair years after as relationships try to mend. Not very many books have made me read thru tears but this was such a profound story that needed to be written, with characters believable and heroic. A Beautiful Romeo and Juliet style romantic tale. I loved the symbolisms used, most of which the old vinyl 78 Oscar Holden record. I also enjoyed getting a peek into the 1940's Seattle jazz scene.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Miz

    Wow, just wow. This book was masterfully told and while it started slow, it built into a crescendo of feelings and emotions. The character development was amazing, the storyline outstanding, and the writing masterful. Recommend this. Pick it up, read it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amalia

    After reading how many people absolutely adore this book, I almost feel a little guilty giving it a "meh" review. But....a "meh" review it deserves, and that's what it shall get from me. First, the good: My sense is that this story has raised awareness of the internment camps that many Japanese-Americans were placed in during WWII. As someone who believes that without knowledge of history we're doomed to repeat it, I think that's timely and important knowledge for people to have. The story of After reading how many people absolutely adore this book, I almost feel a little guilty giving it a "meh" review. But....a "meh" review it deserves, and that's what it shall get from me. First, the good: My sense is that this story has raised awareness of the internment camps that many Japanese-Americans were placed in during WWII. As someone who believes that without knowledge of history we're doomed to repeat it, I think that's timely and important knowledge for people to have. The story of Henry and Keiko's relationship is a very sweet, heartwarming one (if not entirely realistic at age 12-ish). Mrs. Beatty is a character who I would have enjoyed getting to "know" better; for someone who was a pretty crusty lady, she seemed to have a lot of compassion beneath that exterior. Then, the bad: Anachronisms. Lots of them. Interestingly, not in the 1940s sections, but in the 1980s sections. Shame on the editor who let them get past their desk. Another weakness was in all of the allusions to the history of father-son relationships in the Lee family with little being done to develop that theme. Also, while many of the characters were interesting, the portrayal of them felt superficial to me. Mrs. Beatty seemed underdeveloped as a character- as did Mr. Okabe and even Sheldon. I wanted more of these characters. It's an easy read and if you need something to fill time (I did- read it in a day and a half while I've been laid up with pneumonia), it's not a bad time-filler. Honestly, though, it reminds me of cotton candy at the fair- sweet, light, fluffy, and leaves you wishing for something with more substance.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Great book. I love novels based on historical fact. I finished it in just a day and a half. Hard to believe it is a first novel. I am looking forward to more from this author. I looked up some of the people and places mentioned in the book, just to see if they were real - and was pleased to find that they were. Of course if I had read the acknolwedgements at the end of the book I would have known that already.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    I wanted so much more from this book.........but sadly I just did not get it. This could have been a wonderful historical novel but it ended up being a cute love story and perhaps I expected too much from the book in the first place and therefore was disappointed with the read. I was really looking forward to this book because it was about a period of US history in World War 2 involving the detention of US citizens of Japanese background which I knew very little about and was looking forward to I wanted so much more from this book.........but sadly I just did not get it. This could have been a wonderful historical novel but it ended up being a cute love story and perhaps I expected too much from the book in the first place and therefore was disappointed with the read. I was really looking forward to this book because it was about a period of US history in World War 2 involving the detention of US citizens of Japanese background which I knew very little about and was looking forward to this read. I really feel the author had the outline of a great plot but was unable to fill out this story as it lacked so much, it needed more emotion, and a lot more punch. I found the relationship between Henry and Keiko difficult to accept as these were children 12 years old the relationship and emotions are way too advanced for children of this age and I feel that for me this is where the author got it badly wrong. This was a love story with a few historical facts thrown in to keep you interested but not the read I thought it would be. Book Club re-read. My thoughts remain the same.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Claudine

    Hotel made me cry, made me laugh and brought me joy. It's a beautifully written and tender story about first love, the human experience surrounding racial divides, generational conflicts, and the internment of Japanese Americans. You won't be disappointed with Hotel.

  27. 5 out of 5

    James Martin

    Great title and a great book! It took me a while because of changing residences, but that way I was able to stretch out the enjoyment factor. The book not only brings to the forefront a dark time in US history, but the story is sweetened by the fully fleshed-out characters and the swirl of events in which they find themselves. These are characters you're not likely to forget. Highly recommended.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Janelle

    If this isn't an eye opening book, I don't know what is. This is a story of a 1st generation Chinese American boy named Henry in 1942 Seattle. During World War II his father wants to ensure no one confuses him for the ostracized Japanese and sends his son to an all white school with an "I Am Chinese" button on his clothing. There he meets 2nd generation Japanese American girl named Keiko. Though Henry's father has a passionate hatred for the Japanese, Henry develops a sweet, deep and secretive If this isn't an eye opening book, I don't know what is. This is a story of a 1st generation Chinese American boy named Henry in 1942 Seattle. During World War II his father wants to ensure no one confuses him for the ostracized Japanese and sends his son to an all white school with an "I Am Chinese" button on his clothing. There he meets 2nd generation Japanese American girl named Keiko. Though Henry's father has a passionate hatred for the Japanese, Henry develops a sweet, deep and secretive friendship with her. Then the president of the USA signs an executive order to round up Japanese Americans and "evacuate" them to internment camps across the western half of the United States. Henry must come to grips with losing his new best friend while trying to understand why or how such an appalling act could be happening to the Japanese Americans. This book was certainly an eye opener as I already stated. I had heard of internment camps for the Japanese, but so very little of it. The author clearly stated at the end of this book he had no intention of laying blame on anyone or to sway the reader to sympathy either. He did a remarkable job of simply stating what happened with no political jabs. He tells a beautiful story of friendship and life during those difficult times. I can tell you this book has certainly inspired me to learn more on this topic.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    The subject matter of this novel had a great deal of potential, but Jamie Ford never managed to make me care what happened to these stilted, boring characters. I sometimes wonder how such books become bestsellers. I have absolutely no doubt that I will have forgotten everything about this book by this time next week.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    My heart is bursting and brimming after finishing Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It's one of those stories that opens the reader's eyes to a significant event in time but in a nonjudgemental way. It allows one to understand the facts and events from different perspectives. For instance, understanding each character's unique motivations and experiences even if one doesn't agree with it. I find this writing style refreshing as it allows the reader to come to their own judgments rather My heart is bursting and brimming after finishing Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It's one of those stories that opens the reader's eyes to a significant event in time but in a nonjudgemental way. It allows one to understand the facts and events from different perspectives. For instance, understanding each character's unique motivations and experiences even if one doesn't agree with it. I find this writing style refreshing as it allows the reader to come to their own judgments rather than being force fed a particular view. The story takes place in Seattle during WW2. After the US enters the war due to Pearl Harbour attack from the Japanese, the government decides to imprison Japanese-Americans as a national safety "precaution." (The same thing happened in Canada too.) We meet young Henry who is 12 years old. His father a Chinese nationalist. While attending an English school and being the only person of Chinese decent, he befriends Keyko, a Japanese American student. The two develop a strong bond despite Henry's father's objections. We watch the impact of the Japanese roundup and imprisonment at intern camps through the eyes of Henry as he witnesses the atrocities that Keyko's family experiences. There is heartbreak, tragedy, loss but also inspiration and reconciliation. It's a well told heartwarming story with a great message at the end.

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