Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One day in 1986, Henry Lee, a Chinese American, noticed a commotion outside the old Panama Hotel in Seattle. Closed for years the new owner is planning on reopening the once majestic hotel but in the basement they found the belonging to of several Japanese families that were went away to the internment camps during World War II. That’s when Henry sees the parasol that he believes belonged to a young Japanese American girl, Keiko Okabe, who was his best friend and first love. Soon we are transported back in time to Seattle's Japantown and Chinatown. A time when Jazz music was on every street corner and a young Henry is going to an all white school. One day while working the lunch line he meets Keiko and they form a bond that defies the events and people around them. As events transpire Henry will defy his community and family to be close to the girl he loves. In 1986 we see Henry trying to build a lasting relationship with his son Marty as he searched through the basement of the Panama Hotel looking for the one item that was lost to him back in 1942.

As an avid reader it is rare that a book moves me as much as this book did. Throughout the story I was heart broken and uplifted as I read Henry's story. I felt Henry’s confusion as a young boy, only being allowed to speak "American" in his home with parents that barely understood him and his father’s desire to send him to China to continue his education. I rejoiced at Henry’s fascination with Jazz music and the friendship with sax player Sheldon. I was touched by the sweet tender relationship between Henry and Keiko. And I understood Henry desires for his son and the need to reach out to him but unsure how. I can not say enough good things about this book. It is a beautiful story of the human sprit that had me crying, laughing, cheering and moved.

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