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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by…

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

by Jamie Ford

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,7073881,002 (3.96)435
Title:Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Authors:Jamie Ford
Info:Ballantine Books (2009), Paperback, 301 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:read 2012

Work details

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

  1. 251
    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. 221
    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. 20
    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.
  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
    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.
  9. 10
    The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye (shesinplainview)
  10. 10
    Random Winds by Belva Plain (shesinplainview)
  11. 00
    Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: Both books focus on young lovers separated by war.
  12. 00
    The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende (Blogletter)
  13. 56
    The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller (shesinplainview)

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» See also 435 mentions

English (388)  Swedish (2)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All (394)
Showing 1-5 of 388 (next | show all)
Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet is a great read.
Henry is a man that you grow to love as the story of his life unfold with the way the world is you can see in his life the things that are so important to him is not the things you buy but the people in this life.
like family and your friends.
although his father meant well. it was not the life he wanted for his self.
totally love the book. it is a must read. ( )
  TracyKelley | Nov 23, 2016 |
Interesting perspective on Japanese internment but kind of simple. A good young adult book, perhaps. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Amazing and beautiful!! ( )
  pickleroad | Nov 10, 2016 |
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an aww-inducing romance wrapped in rather ok writing. It's nothing to write home about, but the book is a nice break from the endless number of WWII novels focused on love and family set in either a concentration camp or France. Jamie Ford instead gives the reader the puppy love between preteens Henry Lee and Keiko Okabe when the US began relocating and interning Japanese Americans who lived on the Pacific coast. Henry and Keiko are drawn together as they are the only non-white students at a Seattle middle school. Their young love develops as they deal with the racism of classmates and adults who see them as "the enemy" because they are Asian - even though both were born in the US and Henry is Chinese. The story is told through flashbacks between the 1940s and 1986 - where the 50-something Henry is trying to move past the death of his wife and renegotiate his relationship with his adult son all while wondering what happened to Keiko.

The love story between Henry and Keiko plays on the typical romance-related tropes - like Henry's family actively works to keep them apart - and the ending is saccharine and predictable. However, where the book really succeeds is in describing Seattle's China and Japanese towns during the war. Ford claims to take no stance on the Japanese internment in the book's notes, but he provides a good description about how Japanese Americans lost everything, the fear of being separated from their American life and how people at that time were mostly indifferent to what happened to them. However, this isn't a deep dive into all the historical and political aspects of the internment. There are a few surprises in the book that keep the story moving - like if Henry ever finds the Oscar Holden record - but this novel is more of a beach read than immersive fiction. ( )
  acgallegos91 | Sep 1, 2016 |
The story started out slowly but quickly turned into a 'can't-put-down' read. The author takes the reader between 1986 and the 1940s during WWII. Henry and Keiko are in love but there is a problem. Henry is Chinese and Keiko is Japanese. Henry's father insists Henry grow up as an American and will not allow him to speak anything but English, even though his father speaks very little English and his mother speaks none. Henry's father is also very anti-Chinese and when he discovers his son has a Japanese friend, he forbids Henry to see Keiko again. Henry disregards his father's orders and winds up taking a but to see Keiko at an interment camp. Over the years, the couple lose track of each other. The bitter-sweet story takes up through their lives from childhood to old age and teaches us that first loves never really die. ( )
  wearylibrarian | Aug 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 388 (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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My poor heart is sentimental

Not made of wood

I got it bad and that ain't good.

--Duke Ellington, 1941
For Leesha, my happy ending
First words
Old Henry Lee stood transfixed by all the commotion at the Panama Hotel.
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.
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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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