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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
5,8334321,284 (3.94)476
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.
Title:Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Authors:Jamie Ford
Info:Ballantine Books (2009), Edition: 1st Edition/1st Printing, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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. 231
    Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (JGoto)
    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
    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.
  4. 30
    Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston (carport)
  5. 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.
  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. 00
    The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende (Blogletter)
  9. 00
    Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: Both books focus on young lovers separated by war.

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» See also 476 mentions

English (426)  Swedish (2)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (2)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (434)
Showing 1-5 of 426 (next | show all)
3.5/5 ( )
  TashaMorwell | Feb 24, 2021 |
Told in two timelines, one in the middle of WW2 and one in the 1980s both centring on the same boy/man. In its heart, this is a love story and a bittersweet one at that, as the title would suggest.
I do love books that teach me something, and before reading this, I had no idea about the internment camps for Japanese Americans which were set up after the bombing of pearl harbour. I did enjoy this book but wasn't wowed by it. ( )
  CharlotteBurt | Feb 1, 2021 |
A very well written book about the Asian community in California during WWII. It was written in two time periods: the 1940s story and the 1980s story about the Chinese man who is now a widower. In some ways the story was a fun, unrealistic romance novel. In other ways, the story was a great historical novel and brought a period of American history to life. Definitely worth the read. ( )
  KamGeb | Jan 30, 2021 |
This book was suggested to me after I read The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali because it was similar since it was about a young couple who fell in love in turbulent times and were separated due to events in those times. I can see the comparison but I didn't quite believe the first love story presented in this book as much as in the other.

This book presents Henry Lee at two different times in his life. The first is 1942, just after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the USA entered World War II. The second is 1986 when Henry is fairly recently widowed with a college age son. In 1942 Henry was 12 going on 13 so in 1986 he would have been 56. Henry was the only child in a Chinese immigrant family. As such his parents have high hopes for him and they arrange to have him attend a school at which he is the only Oriental student. He is further ostracized because, as a scholarship student, he must work in the school cafeteria serving lunch to his classmates. One day he is joined by Keiko, a Japanese-American girl just his age, who is also a scholarship student. The two soon become close and Henry is devastated when Keiko and her family are interned for the duration of the war. Henry manages to see Keiko several times shortly after the internment and they swear to write to each other and wait for each other until the war ends. When Keiko's letters become sporadic and then stop Henry is comforted by the mail clerk at the post office where he always sends his letters to her. Ethel and Henry start to date and they eventually marry. When Ethel dies of cancer Henry is again adrift. He sees a news article about the new owner of the Panama Hotel finding belongings of the former Japanese residents of Seattle in the basement. It brings back memories of Keiko and the times they shared. He is allowed to access the goods in the basement and with the help of his son and his son's girlfriends he is able to find Keiko's family's belongings. His chief reason for going through them is to find a record made by a small jazz band which featured Henry's friend Sheldon on saxophone. The girlfriend uncovers it but it has been broken. Sheldon is still alive but quite ill and living in a care home. Henry had really wanted to find the record to give it to Sheldon because Sheldon gave his only copy to Henry who took it to Keiko in the internment camp. Sheldon claims he is just as happy to have even the broken record but Henry wishes he could play it for him. The man in the used record shop that Henry takes it to tells him it cannot be repaired so that seems to be the end of that. Or is it?

I found it hard to believe that two people as young as Henry and Keiko in 1942 could know that they had found their love match. Even in the tumultuous times of the Second World War when people had to grow up fast it seemed to me that the declarations of love that they made to each other were unrealistic. There were a few other things that gave me pause (such as how does Henry at the age of 56 have no job responsibilities and no extra-curricular activities; also how does his son manage to find Keiko in New York City and contact her in pre-internet days on a computer). Nevertheless the historical background seems accurate and I did love the parts of the story that involved Sheldon the black saxophone player. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 30, 2020 |
Another great read...too tired to write much of a review but it was a fascinating look at Seattle's Japantown and the internment camps during WWII through the relationship between Henry, a 12 year old Chinese boy and Keiko, a 12 year old Japanese-American girl. ( )
  baruthcook | Aug 26, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 426 (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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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.

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