Normally, I can put aside my job as a copy editor and enjoy books, but some of the errors and poor judgments in Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and SweeNormally, I can put aside my job as a copy editor and enjoy books, but some of the errors and poor judgments in Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet were so egregious that I found myself reaching for a red pen.
The 1942 passages, as far as I could tell, were well-researched, and the rough idea of the plot was compelling. The 1986 portions were a disaster, and the story seems to drag and repeat itself. We don't learn anything new every flashback/fast-forward, which, to me, defeats the purpose of a split-time setting.
My biggest gripes were the anachronisms in the 1986 part of the story and the portrayal of Henry's parents. There isn't really a good argument for choosing 1986 as the setting. A lot of the "modern" technology mentioned is very modern -- it wouldn't be accessible for at least another 10 years. Henry's son uses the internet to search for a person, but the internet was really not used a lot before the 1990s. I'm vaguely remembering that he might have been majoring in something computer-related, but even with that access and know-how, that wasn't something readily available in 1986. And CDs weren't big until the 1990s, either. In 1986, everyone was mostly using cassette tapes.
The treatment of Henry's parents is patronizing. Even when it's clear that they're speaking in Cantonese and the conversation is in English for the reader's convenience, they omit verbs in a very stereotypical portrayal of Asian immigrants. It makes no sense to suggest that they would be speaking so brokenly in their native language.
The mistakes really didn't make me think less of the author; like I said, the story is compelling. But the editor could have made it so much better with some strategic cutting and a closer read for fact-checking....more
When I started reading The Baker's Daughter, I was disappointed to see that it jumped back and forth from present to past in different points of view.When I started reading The Baker's Daughter, I was disappointed to see that it jumped back and forth from present to past in different points of view. Usually, I like a third-person point of view to be either omniscient or to concentrate on one character because swapping things around is so difficult to do well. Sarah McCoy is an exception. I was very impressed with how well the story flowed together. It wasn't hard to follow. You didn't get confused about which character was the focal point at any given moment. For what originally looked like something of a patchwork quilt, the plot moved pretty seamlessly.
There were parts that I wanted to know more about. What happened to all the other women Hazel was living with? Is it an actual historical unknown? If so, there probably would have been a way to weave that in. I also wondered about Josef's ending. Did that really happen? Or was it a rumor that reached Elsie?
Initially, I was uncomfortable with equating the Holocaust with deporting undocumented immigrants. But then I realized that McCoy wasn't trying to equate, per se. Studying Nazi Germany, it's easy to condemn all Germans who lived through the Holocaust, supported Hitler at any time or on any level or fought in the war. But governments commit atrocities all the time without the knowledge, much less consent, of the people they purport to represent. It was interesting to read something not remotely sympathetic to Nazism, but definitely sympathetic to the average German just trying to eke out an existence during a war that devastated the entire continent (and much of the rest of the world). I thought the passage where Reba asks Elsie whether she was a Nazi was poignant -- particularly Elsie's response: "I was a German."...more
I knew nothing about the Dominican Republic's revolution, much less its major players, but I devoured this novel. I loved the sisters' distinct personI knew nothing about the Dominican Republic's revolution, much less its major players, but I devoured this novel. I loved the sisters' distinct personalities and how you got to know each one. Hearing the story made me want to learn the history....more