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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

by

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 belongings 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.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry's world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While "scholarshipping" at the exclusive Rainier 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. And 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 is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel's dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice — words that might explain the actions of his 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.

Review:

"Ford's strained debut concerns Henry Lee, a Chinese-American in Seattle who, in 1986, has just lost his wife to cancer. After Henry hears that the belongings of Japanese immigrants interned during WWII have been found in the basement of the Panama Hotel, the narrative shuttles between 1986 and the 1940s in a predictable story that chronicles the losses of old age and the bewilderment of youth. Henry recalls the difficulties of life in America during WWII, when he and his Japanese-American school friend, Keiko, wandered through wartime Seattle. Keiko and her family are later interned in a camp, and Henry, horrified by America's anti-Japanese hysteria, is further conflicted because of his Chinese father's anti-Japanese sentiment. Henry's adult life in 1986 is rather mechanically rendered, and Ford clumsily contrasts Henry's difficulty in communicating with his college-age son, Marty, with Henry's own alienation from his father, who was determined to Americanize him. The wartime persecution of Japanese immigrants is presented well, but the flatness of the narrative and Ford's reliance on numerous cultural cliches make for a disappointing read." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"[Ford] writes earnestly and cares for his characters, who consistently defy stereotype. Ford posits great meaning in objects...but the most striking moments come from the characters' readings of each other." Booklist

Review:

"In his first novel...Ford expertly nails the sweet innocence of first love, the cruelty of racism...and the sadness and satisfaction at the end of a life well lived. The result is a vivid picture of a confusing and critical time in American history." Library Journal

Review:

"Sentimental, heartfelt...the exploration of Henry's changing relationship with his family and with Keiko will keep most readers turning pages....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." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war — not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today's world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel." Garth Stein

Review:

"Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut." Lisa See

Synopsis:

Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era, the times and places are brought [stirringly] to life (Jim Tomlinson, author of "Things Kept, Things Left Behind").

Synopsis:

"Sentimental, heartfelt….the exploration of Henrys changing relationship with his family and with Keiko will keep most readers turning pages...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 dont repeat those injustices."-- Kirkus Reviews

“A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war--not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today's world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel."

-- Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut.”

-- Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

In the opening pages of Jamie Fords 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 Seattles Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings 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.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henrys world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier 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. And 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 is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotels dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe familys belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his 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.

Video

About the Author

An award-winning short-story writer, Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated in 1865 from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco, where he adopted the Western name "Ford," thus confusing countless generations.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

Denise Morland, January 4, 2010 (view all comments by Denise Morland)
Hotel on the Corner of Butter and Sweet is Jamie Ford's beautifully written debut about Henry, a Chinese American growing up in Seattle during World War II. Henry struggles with his identity, his stubborn father, and when his best friend, a Japanese American girl, is sent to an internment camp he has to decide between love and loyalty.

This book is like a little slice of history complete with the sights, sounds and smells of Seattle during World War II, jazz music, salty sea air, and the sweet taste of duck sausage. There are so many themes touched in this story that it should feel overly crowded: first love, father-son relationships, immigrants, racism, and looming over everything World War II. Yet the story flows around and through Henry seamlessly and it is easy to find yourself deep in his world.

I completely and unashamedly fell in love with this book from the very beginning. At first I raced through it eager to see what would become of Henry, later I slowed my progress wanting to prolong my time with him and anxious about his ending. When the end came it was perfect, bitter and sweet, but so satisfying too.
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(4 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
Leslie Hogue, June 3, 2009 (view all comments by Leslie Hogue)
Jamie Ford's beautiful first novel about the life of two teenagers in Seattle, Wa. Henry & Kieko meet just before the start of WWII at an all white school in Seattle. It is a wonderful view into the lives of different ethnic groups in Seattle in the 1940's then into the 1980's. It shows how the personal relationships evolve as different aspects infuence their lives.
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(2 of 7 readers found this comment helpful)
Andrea Cumbo, May 26, 2009 (view all comments by Andrea Cumbo)
Sometimes books take a while to get revved up, but when we let them get warm in our hands and settle us into our seats, we find gems in the pages. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is one of those books.

The first few pages were a bit slow because they are so subtle. They tell the story of an old man, Henry, who finds himself stunned by a Japanese parasol that has been pulled out of an abandoned hotel in Seattle. Henry has lost his wife, and somehow this parasol triggers that spark of life that he needs to keep going. Ford’s writing embeds the importance of this event in the mundane, but if a reader keeps at it, she will find herself richly rewarded.

The book spans two timeframes in Seattle’s history - the 1980s and the 1940s - and describes the life of a Chinese-American (Henry) and a Japanese-American (Keiko) who become friends as children during World War II. The cultural complexities of that time when internment camps and Chinese nationalism ran high alongside the soft but biting racism against African-Americans give this novel a social dimension that fleshes out a great deal that I did not know (and was not taught) about the 1940s, particularly on the West Coast. I don’t remember ever reading about or hearing a teacher speak about Japanese Internment Camps here on the East Coast, and the mentions I had of that dark stain of American history came only when I lived in California and read Farewell to Manzanar. Maybe out of embarrassment we have tried to erase this element of our history. I’m glad Ford has brought it back to me, for it is only when we hide something that we cannot work to heal it.

But it’s not just the political and cultural elements of the novel that make it a valuable book; the writing and characterization are subtle and complex. None of the characters here are flat; none are simple; none are wholly right or wholly wrong - they are people. Additionally, the novel is well-paced and gripping for a mystery drives the book forward (a mystery I won’t reveal for those of you who will take my advice and pick up this book). Relationships quiver with life on these pages, and the setting - historically accurate Seattle - is rich and rewarding, reminding me a great deal of what I heard about San Francisco during the same time periods. The moments of tenderness and brutality in this book live fully, bringing me to tears and gasps even as I plowed ahead to hear what was next. And Henry, the protagonist, well, I love him - both as a child I want to help and protect and as an old man at whose feet I would like to sit.

Occasionally, Ford’s writing, particularly at the end of chapters, seems a bit forced, like he’s trying to be writerly, but these lines are overlooked in light of the clarity and richness of the story.

So please, pick up Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, carve out a leisurely afternoon, make a cup of green tea, and read the hours away while adding these characters and this history into your mind.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780345505330
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Ford, Jamie
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Subject:
General
Subject:
Fathers and sons
Subject:
Japanese Americans
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literary
Copyright:
Publication Date:
January 27, 2009
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
9.55 x 6.35 x 1 in 1.1 lb

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

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Product details 304 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345505330 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Ford's strained debut concerns Henry Lee, a Chinese-American in Seattle who, in 1986, has just lost his wife to cancer. After Henry hears that the belongings of Japanese immigrants interned during WWII have been found in the basement of the Panama Hotel, the narrative shuttles between 1986 and the 1940s in a predictable story that chronicles the losses of old age and the bewilderment of youth. Henry recalls the difficulties of life in America during WWII, when he and his Japanese-American school friend, Keiko, wandered through wartime Seattle. Keiko and her family are later interned in a camp, and Henry, horrified by America's anti-Japanese hysteria, is further conflicted because of his Chinese father's anti-Japanese sentiment. Henry's adult life in 1986 is rather mechanically rendered, and Ford clumsily contrasts Henry's difficulty in communicating with his college-age son, Marty, with Henry's own alienation from his father, who was determined to Americanize him. The wartime persecution of Japanese immigrants is presented well, but the flatness of the narrative and Ford's reliance on numerous cultural cliches make for a disappointing read." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "[Ford] writes earnestly and cares for his characters, who consistently defy stereotype. Ford posits great meaning in objects...but the most striking moments come from the characters' readings of each other."
"Review" by , "In his first novel...Ford expertly nails the sweet innocence of first love, the cruelty of racism...and the sadness and satisfaction at the end of a life well lived. The result is a vivid picture of a confusing and critical time in American history."
"Review" by , "Sentimental, heartfelt...the exploration of Henry's changing relationship with his family and with Keiko will keep most readers turning pages....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."
"Review" by , "A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war — not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today's world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel."
"Review" by , "Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut."
"Synopsis" by , Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era, the times and places are brought [stirringly] to life (Jim Tomlinson, author of "Things Kept, Things Left Behind").
"Synopsis" by , "Sentimental, heartfelt….the exploration of Henrys changing relationship with his family and with Keiko will keep most readers turning pages...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 dont repeat those injustices."-- Kirkus Reviews

“A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war--not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today's world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel."

-- Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut.”

-- Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

In the opening pages of Jamie Fords 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 Seattles Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings 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.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henrys world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier 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. And 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 is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotels dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe familys belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his 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.

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