Friday, June 22, 2012

On My Nightstand - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Source: purchased e-book and read on Kobo

Book description (via
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.

My thoughts:
I have had this book on my list to read for a while, I suggested it to book club but it wasn’t picked which is unfortunate because I think it is a great book and would lead to a wonderful discussion.

In the past few years I have this weird draw to historical fiction books set during and around World War II, maybe that was what attracted me to this story, or the fact that reading the description brought back a conversation with my father where he told me about the Japanese internment camps Canada and US had during WWII.
I also remember learning a little bit about them in school, but not much, maybe it was not highlighted because this was a part of WWII that we are not proud of how we acted?

Anyway, I really liked this book.  I told a story so often forgotten.  It was an easy read and kept me reading right to the end of the book.

My rating: 4 out of 5.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds very good. Adding to my list.