The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Jamie Ford’s first book The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a real little gem. At only 290 pages, it is the perfect size for a quick read or a weekend away. In the 1940s in Seattle, Washington, Henry Lee, a Chinese American, forms a bond of friendship that later turns into love with Keiko Okabe, a Japanese American. Old world grievances and hatred between the Chinese and Japanese prevent Henry’s parents from accepting this relationship. This book really is bitter sweet. The underlying animosity and hatred of all things and everyone Japanses is prevalent throughout the entire book. It shows how far these feelings went, and how much the entire Japanses community suffered. On the other side of the coin it shows how friendships and love find a way to bridge this terrible divide regardless of old grievances. Keiko and her family, like all Japanese families in Seattle, were eventually evacuated and sent to interment camps. 40 years later, Henry is walking by the old Panama Hotel which for years has been boarded up and neglected. Now being restored to it’s former glory, the new owner discovers  the belongings of those Japanese families that had to flee the city stored in the basement, and Henry immediately decides to search for a long lost object that meant so much to both him and Keiko. Along the way he relives the journey he took, the sacrifices he made, and the love he had for his family, his country and especially Keiko. I call this a sleeper hit. It’s a New York Times bestseller, and a Washington State Book Award Finalist, yet I bet most readers porobably never hear about it. I loved it!

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