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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Jamie Ford

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,5453771,055 (3.96)434
Member:jfaltz
Title:Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Authors:Jamie Ford
Info:Ballantine Books (2009), Paperback, 301 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:read 2012

Work details

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009)

  1. 241
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (hoosieriu97)
    hoosieriu97: This story is beautifully written about the same time period.
  2. 211
    Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel by David Guterson (JGoto, shesinplainview)
    JGoto: This is also set in Washington state with a well-written story dealing with racism against Japanese Americans after World War Two.
  3. 40
    Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (shesinplainview)
  4. 40
    When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (pdebolt)
    pdebolt: This is also a story about an American family of Japanese descent sent to an interment camp.
  5. 30
    Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston (carport)
  6. 10
    China Dolls by Lisa See (kqueue)
    kqueue: Both books deal with Asian-Americans at the onset of World War II and the injustices they suffered along with the tensions between Japanese-Americans and Chinese-Americans.
  7. 10
    The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books give a picture of the people of Japanese descent living in America during World War II.
  8. 10
    Random Winds by Belva Plain (shesinplainview)
  9. 10
    The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye (shesinplainview)
  10. 10
    Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas (tahcastle)
    tahcastle: Both stories explain the Japanese Internment camps. Tallgrass was the town's views of the Japanese moving into their neighborhood. Hotel explained the moving of the Japanese out of their homes into the camp.
  11. 00
    The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende (Blogletter)
  12. 00
    Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: Both books focus on young lovers separated by war.
  13. 46
    The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller (shesinplainview)
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» See also 434 mentions

English (377)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (382)
Showing 1-5 of 377 (next | show all)
Despite its flaws, I read all the way to the last page to find out what happened to Henry Lee and his first love, Keiko, who were separated when her family was forced into a Japanese internment camp during World War II. I’m sure this book is wildly popular with book clubs.
The flaws I mentioned: quite a few anachronisms and a bit too saccharine for my taste.
( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
This well written story tugs at emotional heartstrings. Easy reading. Recommended to anyone. Hopefully it will also cause you to Google a few things regarding the period of Japanese internment. It's amazing how much we forget - or never really knew. This is primarily a tender 'young love' story. Their relationship is complicated by family dynamics, and the prejudices of time and place.... Seattle 1940's.

Henry's parents refused to let him speak Cantonese. As an American born Chinese, he must speak English but he must be Chinese in all other ways. It made it nearly impossible for them to communicate and made the divide between them much larger. He was a lonely kid in a predominantly white school where, because of his race, he never fit in and was a prime candidate for bullying.

His only friend was Sheldon, a street Jazz musician ... until he met Keiko, a Japanese girl, who quickly became his best friend. His life changed … then changed again when her family and the rest of the Japanese community was interned.

Everyone has stories, things that make them who they are, often carried in silence. In "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" Henry gets the opportunity to tell his story to his son and it affects their relationship in ways he hadn't expected. This story serves as a reminder that we are all more than we seem to others. Tell your stories. Listen and encourage others to tell their stories. ( )
  GranDeb | Apr 29, 2016 |
I thought this book did a good job of writing about a painful subject: the internment of the Japanese Americans during World War II and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I was a little put off by the few anachronisms about the internet and online support groups in a book that was supposed to take place in 1986, but otherwise it seemed well researched and written. ( )
  Electablue | Apr 20, 2016 |
What I liked about this book is how it dealt with the Japanese Relocation, it sought to allow the reader to decide the morality of the situation. It did not try to force one point of view. The Relocation of the Japanese was not the only theme there were several themes within this beautifully written book. Family culture, traditions, jazz music and crossing nationalities were explored with ease and understanding of the difficulties of the time period. ( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
Jane Lynch, Carol Burnett
  jmail | Mar 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 377 (next | show all)
While the novel is less perfect as literature than John Hamamura's Color of the Sea (Thomas Dunne, 2006), the setting and quietly moving, romantic story are commendable.
added by Katya0133 | editSchool Library Journal, Angela Carstensen (May 1, 2009)
 
Although Ford does not have anything especially novel to say about a familiar subject (the interplay between race and family), he writes earnestly and cares for his characters, who consistently defy stereotype.
added by Katya0133 | editBooklist, Kevin Clouther (Nov 15, 2008)
 
A timely debut that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don't repeat those injustices.
added by Katya0133 | editKirkus Reviews (Oct 15, 2008)
 
In his first novel, award-winning short-story writer Ford expertly nails the sweet innocence of first love, the cruelty of racism, the blindness of patriotism, the astonishing unknowns between parents and their children, and the sadness and satisfaction at the end of a life well lived.
added by Katya0133 | editLibrary Journal, Joanna M. Burkhardt (Oct 1, 2008)
 
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Epigraph
My poor heart is sentimental

Not made of wood

I got it bad and that ain't good.

--Duke Ellington, 1941
Dedication
For Leesha, my happy ending
First words
Old Henry Lee stood transfixed by all the commotion at the Panama Hotel.
Quotations
Henry stared in silence as a small parade of wooden packing crates and leathery suitcases were hauled upstairs, the crowd marveling at the once-precious items held within: a white communion dress, tarnished silver candlesticks, a picnic basket – items that had collected dust, untouched, for forty-plus years. Saved for a happier time that never came.
…wandering over to the Panama Hotel, a place between worlds when he was a child, a place between times now that he was a grown man.
The years had been unkind. … Like so many things Henry had wanted in life – like his father, his marriage, his life – it had arrived a little damaged. Imperfect. But he didn’t care, this was all he’d wanted. Something to hope for, and he’d found it. It didn’t matter what condition it was in.
“With that many people, what’s to keep you from just taking over the camp?”

"You know what keeps us from doing just that? Loyalty. We’re still loyal to the United States of America. Why? Because we too are Americans. We don’t agree, but we will show our loyalty by our obedience. Do you understand, Henry?"
Henry had much to do. … He’d do what he always did, find the sweet among the bitter.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
AR 5.7, 15 Pts
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345505344, Paperback)

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.

"Sentimental, heartfelt….the exploration of Henry’s changing relationship with his family and with Keiko will keep most readers turning pages...A timely debut that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don’t repeat those injustices."-- Kirkus Reviews

“A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war--not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today's world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel."
-- Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut.”
-- Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:35 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era, this debut novel tells the heartwarming story of widower Henry Lee, his father, and his first love Keiko Okabe.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 10 descriptions

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