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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Audiobook

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel

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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

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    LarryD 09-14-09
    LarryD 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 Dickran East Farmingdale, New York United States 08-16-09
    Donna Dickran East Farmingdale, New York United States 08-16-09 Listener Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    04-20-09
    04-20-09 Listener Since 2009
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    "Very Good"

    An engaging love story that introduced me to the US internment camps during WWII.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 02-25-09
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 02-25-09 Member Since 2012
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    "Please check in"

    First of all, while I really enjoyed this book, it is a bit "over hyped". It is not, after all "War and Peace"! That being said, it is a very good book and was well read. I especially enjoyed the ending - it was perfect to finish the book in this way. A good read.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stevon Tempe, AZ, United States 01-13-16
    Stevon Tempe, AZ, United States 01-13-16 Member Since 2017

    I love books!

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    "great debut novel about another time and place"

    Firs time author for me, debut novel for the author. This is both a coming of age novel as well as looking back at your life as you get older wondering about all the choices you made and would you make them again. Set in Seattle in both 1942 and 1986, it's the story of a young Chinese American male, Henry Lee, who as a young teenager is sent to an all white school by his parents to 'get ahead' and the young Japanese American girl he meets there, Keiko, who has been sent there for the same reasons. It's 1942 and Japan has attacked Pearl Harbor and WWII is underway. Both Henry and Keiko feel the prejudice of being Asian in the US at that time but Keiko, especially, as events unfold that would send she and her family to a Japanese internment camp. The book goes back and forth between the two different years where 40 years later Henry still thinks about Keiko and what might have been as he had lead the life his parents wanted him to.

    Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be of Japanese descent living in the United States after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor? Me, I knew about the camps but never really thought much about it. Have you ever thought about what it must have been like to be Chinese American after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and many lumped you in with the Japanese just for being Asian even though China had already been fighting Japan ten years? No? Me, neither.

    The author, who is of Chinese American descent himself, writes a great tale bringing to life this story of life in America at a difficult time for two ethnic groups. If you like these kinds of books, you'll really like this one.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Este 07-09-15
    Este 07-09-15
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    "Excellent"

    The specific descriptions of people and places allowed me hear, smell, see and feel like I was there with the characters in the novel. Amazing book!!!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 12-23-14
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    "Sweet story, interesting topic"
    What did you love best about Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet?

    The treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII is a new topic for me so it was really interesting to see a story of the war from the perspective of the presumed "enemy at home".


    If you’ve listened to books by Jamie Ford before, how does this one compare?

    Never hear him before. Very good narrator!


    Who was the most memorable character of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and why?

    The main character, Henry. Wise, funny, sympathetic.


    Any additional comments?

    Generally, I thought this was a lovely story. Very sweet and many times emotional. Only I felt that some of the situations seemed a little "obvious" from a plot point of view. Maybe I've watched too many Hollywood films that try and maximize the emotional aspects of every single scene - but while listening, it felt like I could predict what each scene would bring, which spoiled the tension somewhat.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Easley, SC, United States 02-10-14
    Michael Easley, SC, United States 02-10-14 Member Since 2015

    Actually, it is Jennifer, not Michael. I enjoy a variety of books but am drawn to romantic historical fiction with a Christian message.

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    "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet"

    I thought the title was perfect for this thought-provoking, historical fiction novel. This was a disturbing and eye-opening story about the treatment of Japanese Americans during the 1940's. The book was well-written, however somewhat depressing. I personally did not find it particularly enjoyable.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine 03-17-13
    Catherine 03-17-13 Member Since 2017
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    "This Novel is All Sweet; no Bitter!"
    If you could sum up Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet in three words, what would they be?

    Touching - romantic - beautiful


    What other book might you compare Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet to and why?

    Perhaps Snow Falling on Cedars - a similar mood if I am remembering the film correctly. Cider House Rules - again the mood more than anything.


    What about Feodor Chin’s performance did you like?

    Just absolutely molded the main character at all ages - phenomenal!


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    It actually took me a bit to get into it into the beginning. Then I just fell into the story and couldn't wait to find out what would happen.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 03-03-13
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 03-03-13 Member Since 2013

    Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.

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    "Seattle's Japanese & Chinese AMERICANS during WWII"

    A young Chinese boy and Japanese girl become friends while attending an American school in Seattle prior to the beginning of WWII. The story is historically accurate, while also telling a beautiful tale of two young school children's friendship which spans several decades. The Asian culture and actions taken by well-meaning parents set into motion events that change the young friends lives forever. With the backdrop of the war and Japanese internment camps, this is an audio book you don't want to miss.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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