Title: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford
First published January 27, 2009
290 pages, Hardcover
ISBN: 9780345505330 (ISBN10: 0345505336)
In Jamie Ford’s captivating novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee becomes a witness to a historic moment in 1986 Seattle. When the Panama Hotel reopens its doors after decades of being boarded up, the new owner discovers the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II.
As the memories of his childhood resurface, Henry, a Chinese American, recalls his friendship with Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American girl who captured his heart during the 1940s. Despite their different cultural backgrounds, Henry and Keiko formed a bond that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors.
However, when Keiko and her family were forced to leave for the internment camps, Henry’s hope for a future with her faded away. Now, forty years later, Henry embarks on a journey to find the Okabe family’s belongings and a long-lost object that holds immeasurable value.
Through his search, Henry confronts the sacrifices he has made for family, love, and country. With his poignant prose and evocative storytelling, Jamie Ford takes readers on a heart-wrenching journey of love, loss, and redemption.
About the Author
Have you heard of Jamie Ford? He’s the author of the bestselling novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which was a New York Times bestseller for two years and won the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.
You might be surprised to know that Jamie’s work has been translated into 34 languages.
But let’s talk about Jamie as a person. He’s not a publicist or some faceless website content.
He’s just a regular guy, sitting in his cozy home office in his favorite Batman pajamas (yes, he has several pairs) with his dog Lucy at his feet. Speaking of Lucy, she’s currently twitching in her sleep, probably dreaming of chasing squirrels.
Oh, and Jamie has a new novel out that you can pre-order now!
If you’re interested in more of Jamie’s writing, he has some steampunk stories in different anthologies, and a tale in another. He also has a story in a mystery book, but he’s not allowed to reveal which one it is.
Jamie Ford’s debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, is a historical romance that explores the Japanese-American internment during World War II. First published in 2009, this book follows the story of Henry Lee, a Chinese-American boy, and Keiko Okabe, a Japanese-American girl, as they navigate their forbidden friendship amidst the backdrop of racial tension and war.
Ford’s writing style is poignant and lyrical, evoking a deep sense of nostalgia and longing. He cleverly interweaves past and present, seamlessly blending flashbacks and character perspectives to create a rich and vivid picture of Seattle in the 1940s.
His nuanced portrayal of the internment is compelling, shedding light on a dark chapter in American history that is often overlooked or forgotten. The plot centers around the Panama Hotel, a real-life landmark in Seattle’s International District, which served as a storage facility for the belongings of Japanese Americans who were forced to leave behind their homes and livelihoods during the war.
Henry, who was himself a victim of racism and discrimination as a child, becomes obsessed with the hotel and its secrets after discovering a cache of belongings that belonged to Keiko and her family. The main conflict of the novel is between Henry and his father, who is fiercely patriotic and determined to prove his loyalty to America even if it means sacrificing his son’s happiness.
The tension between the two characters is palpable, and their relationship is the heart of the story. Ford’s character development is exceptional, and his portrayal of Henry and Keiko’s friendship is tender and authentic.
He captures the innocence and joy of first love, as well as the pain of separation and loss. The novel also explores broader themes of identity, family, and belonging, and the complex nuances of race and ethnicity in America.
While the novel is not without flaws, such as occasional pacing issues and some predictable plot twists, it is overall a stunning work of historical fiction that is both accessible and thought-provoking. The writing is beautiful, the characters are compelling, and the themes are timely and relevant.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction, romance, and multicultural literature. It is a perfect book for anyone interested in learning more about the Japanese-American internment or who simply wants to be transported back in time to a different era.
Overall, it is a poignant and powerful read that is sure to leave a lasting impact. Rating: 4/5