Kathleen Hagen's Reviews > Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
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Jul 25, 2009

bookshelves: 2009-audio-books, 2009-fiction

The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford, A. narrated by Fiodor Chin, produced by Random House Audio, downloaded from audible.com.

This book takes place basically in two separate time periods, the first one from 1942 to 1945, beginning when Henry Lee is 13. The second time period is 1986, 40 years later. Henry Lee grows up in Chinatown Seattle in the 1940’s. His father is very much into the Chinese nationalist movement and he hates all Japanese because he sees them as the enemy of China. When Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, Henry’s father gladly joins the people who want to disenfranchise the Japanese Americans and move them to internment camps. Henry, on the other hand, has been sent by his father to an upper crust American school where he is tormented because he is almost the only Asian kid there. Then he meets Keiko Okabe, a Japanese student. At first he is shocked and thinks he can’t be friends with Keiko because she’s Japanese. But indeed they become such good friends that when Keiko and her family are sent to internment camps, Henry does his best to help them. Henry and Keiko have promised to wait for each other, but they are swept apart by the war. It isn’t until 40 years later, when the Panama Hotel is being restored, that Henry learns that there are the belongings of many Japanese families buried in the basement-things they left in order to collect them when they came back. This is a wonderful book about that shameful period in American history when we shipped loyal Japanese Americans off to internment camps and disenfranchised them of their businesses and belongings. While this is a novel, the parts about Seattle’s reaction to Pearl Harbor and the internment are true, as it the storing of Japanese belongings in the basement of the Panama Hotel, where the author says many of them remain to this day. This is a debut novel, and this author is off to a wonderful career.

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