Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford~★★★★

Author: Jamie Ford
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Release Date:
October 6th, 2009
Ballantine Books

Book Jacket: "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 belonging s 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.
The simple act takes Henry back to the 1940s, when his world was a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who was obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While "scholarshipping" at the exclusive Ranier (
it's actually Rainier throughout the book...) 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. 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, certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko, searches the hotel's dark, dusty basement for signs of the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even being to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice: words that might explain the actions of this 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."

Taryn's Review: This was a great book to begin with for my jump back into reading. Jamie Ford did a really wonderful job highlighting the horror of a time that often gets little more than a blurb in history textbooks.

Henry was a character that I was able to identify with easily and connect with. Henry's father was the type of person we've all known in life; a man who was stubborn in his choices and prejudice against all people who he believed had wronged him. He wanted nothing more than to make Henry the perfect Chinese American boy.

Henry was isolated at school until Keiko entered the picture. Keiko was delightful and the reader can understand Henry's attraction to her after his initial reaction to ignore her due to her Japanese ethnicity. The friendship that developed between the two is so sweet; it is the kind of friendship you wish you had as a child and hope that your child can have with someone. The two genuinely love each other and it's just a pleasure to see Henry shed his father's beliefs and realize that Keiko was not the "evil Japanese" that many Americans had made all Japanese people out to be.

I really did enjoy the book and I loved the way that Ford chose to tell the story. The reason for my four stars is that while the story was intriguing, I wasn't able to get as emotionally involved as I would have liked with the characters as I hoped. Except for the end, however. The last line of the book was the most perfect way to end the book and it brought tears to my eyes. I don't blame the writer at all for the error in the book jacket (tsk, tsk Ballantine Books!) .

If you have a chance to pick up a book that you want to be sucked into, this is it. I didn't want to put it down!

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