I read a lot so books usually blur together in my memory. However, there are certain Kindle books that I will remember for a long time. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is definitely one of those.
The book opens in 1986 Seattle in front of the old Panama Hotel. This hotel was used to store a lot of the belongings of Japanese American families while they were sent to work camps during World War II.
The main character is Henry Lee. He is grieving the recent loss of his wife, Ethel, who died of cancer. Henry was her primary caretaker. You will see how his relationship with Ethel and his old friend Keiko are intertwined.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet flips between 1986 and 1942. Henry meets a Japanese American girl named Keiko when she joins him as a worker in the school cafeteria. Both are a minority in a school where white students are the vast majority.
The story shows the various ethnic sections in Seattle including Chinatown and Japantown. It also shows the hostile environment that Asians live in during the war years.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is also about relationships. It explores the depths of Henry’s relationship with Keiko, his father, and his son. I was in awe that even though the Japanese and Chinese Americans were treated so badly by America and ridiculed by their peers, they still were proud to be American.
I highly recommend reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It really is a gem.
“I highly recommend this novel to those who remember their first love, have heard about the Japanese American internment camps, or strive to bridge two cultural worlds and to those who just love a good story. To all of you, there is a room waiting at the “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.” ”
“This book does a phenomenal job exploring the history and attitudes of this time period, and Ford’s portrayal of Seattle’s ethnic neighborhoods is amazing. But really, the thing that pulled me into this novel the most was the richness of the relationships — Henry and Keiko, Henry and his father, Henry’s mother and his father, and Henry and his own son. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET looks at the best and worst of human relationships, the way we regard others, the way we find ourselves reenacting our relationships with our parents with our own children, the choices we make along the way. Mostly, though, this book reminds us that there is always room — and time — for forgiveness and redemption.”