Monday, January 5, 2009

Review-Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel

My review

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Jamie Ford
Ballantine Books
304 pages
rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a historical novel that takes place during WWII on the West Coast, when fears are acute and spies are imagined everywhere. President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9102 that was passed by Congress giving the government the authority to relocate first and second generation Americans of Japanese decent to internment camps. Even though they were told this was for their own safety, they knew they were being corralled, detained, watched.

Jamie Ford uses this newsreel of history as background, but the internment camps and the mass relocation of Japanese Americans are not the center story. His novel is a love story of forbidden love, parental pressure, prejudice and coming of age. This is a timeless tale of love for any age. For love knows nothing about race as the heart is what beats with passion.

In Seattle, in an area once called Japantown stands the deserted Panama Hotel, and Henry Lee is standing watch. The year is 1986 and Henry has lost his wife to cancer, he has a grown son Marty. Standing outside the hotel, he is reminiscing about the past forty years as he watches the workers carrying things out of the hotel. The once grand hotel was a condemned structure until recently bought. Now during construction on the renovation project a collector’s dream of memorabilia from the 1940s has been discovered in the basement. Henry remembers back to when the evacuees were restricted to what they could bring, many used the basement of the hotel and similar places for storage. He knows there could be something of value to him, but he won’t know what it is till he finds it. How strange.

The second part of the story takes place in 1942 when Henry is just a young boy. In 1942 Henry Lee, a Chinese American meets Keiko Okabe who is a Japanese American. They attend a white prep school and are subjected to racial ridicule because of their Asian appearance. Henry likes Keiko and they become friends. When his father, a Chinese nationalist finds out about their friendship he is furious and he forbids any further contact with the girl. As a result, communication breaks down between Henry and his father and conversations end. As the Okabe family gets ready to move to Camp Harmony, Henry and Keik o promise to remain friends and write.

I couldn’t put this book down! Jamie Ford’s love story between Keiko and Henry touched me deeply. He captures the feelings of the family prejudice and the difficulties anyone faces in a forbidden relationship as if he lived it. The struggle to gain acceptance and please everyone is bitter and sweet. As one who shared a similar fate, this story is a cherished gift like finding Sheldon’s broken record.

Memorable characters throughout support Henry including Mrs. Beatty, the cafeteria person at his school, who has a hidden heart of gold and Sheldon the sage old sax player of Jazz. A beautiful endearing story! Don’t miss this one. If you are participating in Naida’s Romance Challenge consider reading Jamie Ford’s, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

Wisteria Leigh
January 3, 2008


Marie Cloutier said...

Great review. I'm going to read this one soon. it sounds lovely!

wisteria said...

Marie...Thanks. I know you will love it!

Anna said...

Great review. This would be perfect for the WWII challenge. Would it be okay to post a link to your review on the book reviews page at War Through the Generations?

Diary of an Eccentric

wisteria said...

Hi Anna...Thank you! By all means link the review to War Through the Generations. I used this one as one of my books. It is wonderful.

The Bookworm said...

this does sound like an interesting book, great review :) I need to add this one to my TBR.

Anna said...

Thanks! Since this is a review for the challenge, I'll create a post with a snippet of your review and link to the full review. That way everyone knows about everyone's reviews. I'll also provide a link on the book reviews page. I should've known right away you posted it for the challenge, but I was home sick yesterday and my brain was in a fog. ;)

Diary of an Eccentric

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

This is on my list. Great review. I have an award for you on my book blog, come and check it out.

wisteria said...

Naida...Thanks! It's a must read.

wisteria said...

Anna, That's sounds great! I really appreciate it and I think those in the challenge will find having a review helpful. I totally understand those foggy days. I have too many to count. LOL

wisteria said...

Holly....Thanks for the Butterfly Award..That is so exciting and I'm posting about it now. Congratulations on your win too!

Kelly said...

Great review! I received this book around Christmas and my mom swooped it up and took it home. She sent me her review which I posted, but I'm still waiting for the book. Now I really want to get it sent back! Maybe if I send her a self addressed stamped mailer?

Anna said...

I created a post for your review here on War Through the Generations and I also posted a link on the book reviews page. Thanks again!

Diary of an Eccentric

wisteria said...

Bookfool, Thanks for stopping by. I hope you get the book back soon. The mailer sounds like a subtle hint. LOL