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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel | [Jamie Ford]

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut, 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.
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Publisher's Summary

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut, 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.

©2009 Jamie Ford; (P)2009 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"A tender and satisfying work 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 best-selling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain)
"Jamie Ford's first title 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, best-selling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan)

What Members Say

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  •  
    C. Santa Fe, NM, United States 07-16-11
    C. Santa Fe, NM, United States 07-16-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
    ratings
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    "Captivating, Beautiful, Poignant"

    Wonderfully written by Jamie Ford and perfectly narrated by Feodor Chin, this was one of the best listens I've ever experienced. Mr. Chen's voice kept me interested and his voices were perfect. While the book's main characters were personally affected by the shameful and cruel treatment of the American Japanese during the World War II years, the book did not come across as accusatory, but more of a factual telling of how things were during those times.

    There was a permanent "Relocation Center" near my home town and even though many young men from our area fought in WWII, the American Japanese earned the respect of the native residents for their quiet dignity as they endured their confinement. This book helped me to see things more clearly through the eyes of the American Japanese people.

    I definitely recommend this book and will listen to it again.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    margaret seaton 05-30-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
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    397
    8
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    "hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet"

    Excellent book. Well worth the read. Hard to imagine people really lived like this in North America.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John 05-11-09
    John 05-11-09 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    174
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    683
    48
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    "Engaging and believable"

    I thoroughly enjoyed 'Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet' -- the characters are believable, and the setting (Seattle and the Pacific Northwest) is evocatively wrought. The story rings true with what friends who were alive in that era have told me...both of Seattle and of the Japanese American relocation.

    This story reminds me of 'Time Traveler's Wife' and could have been told from two points of view. In any case, it is a delightful tale of family duty and romance in a historically accurate setting.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Thurman 07-05-11
    S. Thurman 07-05-11 Member Since 2010

    JanScott

    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
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    15
    15
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    "well written"

    And well read. It is a safe book to play with children in the car if you are prepared to answer questions about the Japanese internment camps. But perhaps the earlier children learn that the playground is not always safe, the better. It is disheartening to hear how quickly friend can turn to foe, but this is history... and one more lesson in the classroom of life.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lawrence Charlottesville, VA, United States 04-20-10
    Lawrence Charlottesville, VA, United States 04-20-10 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    27
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    86
    16
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    3
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    "Sweet and touching"

    Found this book as a recommendation for those who loved "The Help". While slower, and in many ways simpler, I still found it heart warming. The simple prose is often poetic and it speaks to classic themes of youth, aging, love... and whether losses can be mended over time.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KJNuri 02-22-10
    KJNuri 02-22-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    48
    4
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    "Poignant, Enlightening"

    I loved this book. Although painful to hear, it tells several stories.
    The story of a little boy, bullied in school where know one looks like him. The story of a second generation immigrant and the sacrifices his family makes so he can become American. We learn a little about being black in 1940 and the jazz clubs and music of Seattle. We also learn from the perspective of a young girl the heartbreak of putting Japanese American citizens in concentration camps during WW2. Mostly it is the story of first love -- life long love. I couldn't put it down.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia fargo, ND, United States 01-25-10
    Cynthia fargo, ND, United States 01-25-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    25
    ratings
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    "I loved this book."

    For anyone who is interested in the mixture of American history, relationships, and cultural diversity, this is a beautiful book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Heart wrenching, emotional, maddening at times. Beautifully written and narrated.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Thompson 01-20-10
    M. Thompson 01-20-10 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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    "Once I figured out"

    ...that the reason I didn't enjoy this book was because of the slow reading pace then I could fix it. I sped it up on my ipod and although it made the audio jerky it make the story much more enjoyable! This is a sweet story of love lost and a little glimpse into the tragedy of Japanese interment camps.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Larry D 09-14-09
    Larry D 09-14-09

    PC Larry

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good love story"

    Loved the mix of cultures in a love story. Sometimes as Americans, we forget that we interred the Japanese during WWll. So it was interesting to read how all that came about. Enjoyable. Lynn

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna east farmingdale, NY, USA 08-16-09
    Donna east farmingdale, NY, USA 08-16-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
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    10
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    "Don't miss this one"

    Here's this years feel good book. A sweet love story set in a time in our history as a nation that is not mentioned too often. An era as a nation that we would like to forget,but there is a good history lesson here along with an interesting take on the Japanese /Chinese relationships.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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