Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

A Novel

Book - 2009
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Nov 03, 2019

This story of a new friendship between two teens of different nationalities, Chinese & Japanese from 1942 to current. Their friendship faces challenges that are hard for the teens to handle. The hardest is the internment of one that eventually severs their friendship. Their lives go on until one realizes they need to confront their past live.

Much of what was written about Seattle is very familiar. The prejudice that many Asians was real and documented in real life was minor in the story. It's an easy story to read with no twists or turns. Overall, it is a sad story but the title is very appropriate.

Aimee M Trudel
Sep 17, 2019

Jan's recommendation NF

Jul 29, 2019

I thought I was reading a Disney script for an after school special. Without explanation, someone would come to Henry’s aid. Or not. He was OCD about Keiko. Henry was way to young to be dealing with some adult problems. But I finished the book.

Jul 08, 2019

July WPL Book Club Selection: Sweet book! Absolutely loved this story....<3 Favourite book so far this year

May 02, 2019

I had known of the Japanese internment camps during WW2 but this book helped to make it real and gave me insight. It’s an old-fashioned love story à la Romeo and Juliet, rather sentimentally told and sugar coated. I appreciated the theme about “home” – what is it? where is it? how we can never go back to that remembered sense of home. But while the content is admirable and interesting for its authenticity, Ford’s writing style is simplistic and repetitive, as if he wants to make sure we "get it." I’m a stickler for good writing. I’m glad I read it but not sure I’d recommend it.
A quote I liked: ”I try not to live in the past, but the past lives in me.”

Feb 26, 2019

i read this book to fulfil the goal read a book that contains the worlds salty, sweet, bitter or spicy in the title. It was a bit slow going at first, but i enjoyed it at the end. it is a fiction work, but contains some true elements.

Dec 10, 2018

DNF @ 45%. I almost made it the whole year without DNFing (Did-not-finish) a book. I decided that rather than slog through this story (which I believe has a rather predictable ending) I would call it quits, put it down and move on to something else I actually enjoyed. I couldn't bring myself to give this book a 1 star, even though I didn't finish it- because it's not TERRIBLE. It's just boring, repetitive and trying way too hard to be something that it's not. This story would have been fabulous as a novella or as part of a short story compilation. It feels too long and bloated for its own good, to be very honest. The emotions and feelings are there, but as the novel drags on and the same scenes are replayed over and over, it seems like the author is playing the same notes expecting the same responses. Yes, this child is bullied for being of Asian descent. His friend gets taken away to an internment camp because she's Japanese. The war is going on and there are foods being rationed, and fear is everywhere. This is all too true, and harsh, and accurate, but would have certainly been more poignant and powerful as a chord played once, rather than a child mangling a piano for five minutes.

IndyPL_SteveB Nov 26, 2018

This is a moving novel of American history, racial divides, and family.

In 1986, widower Henry Lee is standing in front of an abandoned Seattle hotel, when the new owner brings out a Japanese parasol, left behind from World War II. His memories flash back to 1942, when he was the only Chinese-American student in the white middle school and his best friend was Keiko, the only Japanese-American girl at that school. As Ford spins out his tale, Henry for the first time tells his son of his own family conflicts with his conservative father over his friendship with Keiko.

You will see World War II from an entirely different perspective than you have ever imagined it before. Of course the Japanese families were hated because of the war and were soon placed into what were essentially prison camps. But the Chinese families had nearly as much prejudice against them as Asians, even though the Chinese were our allies against the Japanese. Ford does an excellent job of portraying the complexities of these relationships and of the mixed emotions of sorrow and happiness.

It is the story of friendship, love, and relationships as told by a 50+ year old second-generation Chinese-American. This wonderful piece of historical fiction seamlessly flows between the 1940’s and 1986, as it delves into the effects, and the aftermath, of the Japanese internment in the Seattle area. Ford does an exceptional job of exploring the history and attitudes of the time, with unique insight into the generational and racial views surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbour, and the consequences of being a minority in a very American setting. Whether you are a sucker for great historical fiction, want a quick cultural history lesson, or one of those that remember the rollercoaster that is first love, book a room at the Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and stay a while! (submitted by JF)

Jul 27, 2018

Heartbreaking (though heartwarming by the end) and relevant in today’s political climate. Also, great descriptions of local Seattle areas during different historical periods.

Jul 17, 2018

I loved this book! I have never read a book about plight of Japanese-American internees and Chinese-Americans during WWII and found this book engrossing!

Jan 28, 2018

I loved this book, wonderful story. The author describes his characters and places so well I was able to 'see' them clearly! War has such devastating effects on so many people in so many different ways. Man's inhumanity to man! I have known many Canadians of Japanese decent who were treated as the enemy, as well as Canadians of other nationalities, mistreated because of their heritage and not accepted for who they are. History keeps repeating itself!

Dec 07, 2017

What a wonderful book. I don't normally read books about relationships, but this one was beautifully written and had me absorbed from the very first page.

Nov 02, 2017

This is one of the best books I have ever read, and I have read hundreds.

Oct 17, 2017

While my bookclub couldn't find much to say about this book, I thought it provided an important history lesson. Considering the prejudice and hostility that threatens the daily lives of so many people, this book continues to be relevant. It was particularly interesting as a Seattle resident, recognizing the places described. Let us never forget the injustice that was perpetrated against our fellow citizens.

Sep 04, 2017

Honestly, if it wasn't for the fact that this is the "community read" for the high school at which I teach, I don't think I would have picked it up on my own. Although I feel the book starts too slowly, I was glad I pushed through to reach the more engaging aspects of the story. The narrative takes place during two time periods - the early part of WWII (about 1943) and Seattle of the late 1980's. The same character is the focus of both story threads - as a Chinese American pre-teen and then as a senior citizen. In the broadest way the story is about the internment of Japanese Americans and how this impacts the "first love" the main character has for a Japanese school-mate. This relationship strains the way the boy and his Chinese immigrant father interact while later in time this character and his own son struggle with their relationship in not dissimilar ways. This novel helped me to better understand the scope and impact of the dark example of nationalistic fear which led to putting American citizens in to what were essentially prison camps. I hope my students learned this as well and that we never, ever repeat this shameful event.

Jul 31, 2017

A beautifully and sensitively written story

Jun 07, 2017

Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet is a great novel about World War Two and Japanese internment camps. I loved this book so much

Bazette Apr 24, 2017

I give this a 5 star! I couldn't put it down and had a good cry in the end. One of those books where you forget you are actually reading it and not living it. It gives a lot of insights into why there are ghettos and the discrimination against immigrants.

Aug 29, 2016

The title says it all: a bittersweet love story that breaks your heart and puts it back together. Beautiful imagery and writing.

CMLibrary_vchapman Jan 21, 2016

A really good story about that thing called love. Set against the backdrop of 1940's Seattle, Washington; mixed with history, culture, sadness and acceptance. A good book to add to your reading list.

Sep 05, 2015

Thoroughly enjoyed the book - I loved the historical depth that went into it. One inaccuracy, however, was the death of Brandon Lee, who died in 1993.

Despite that, I enjoyed the tone that the author set in motion for the story. Sentimentality seemed to sit alongside the social & historical themes that encompassed the novel, which, I think, adds to the story given the plot jumping back between two timelines.

Good week-long read. 4.5/5.

Jun 09, 2015

[2009 Pan Asian American WINNER] On the surface it is a simple story that takes place in both1941 and 1986; of tension between a Chinese father and his American born son, Henry; the love of Hnery for a Japanese girl, the enemy; and the fear of internal terrorism that allowed for the creation of Japanese Internment camps during the war. But there is so much more. The father's justifications for his actions; the isolation of Henry as his parents want to make him American, requiring him to speak English at home even though he is not understood, yet their insistence on Chinese traditions; the perceptions that Henry's own son has about his father; cultural acceptance throughout the generations; etc. - all are handled so naturally that the story never gets lost or diverted.
The title of this book can be viewed as a clever reference to bittersweet memories, as a separation between two food tastes (or nationalities), a meeting place, etc. So many layers. Highly recommended.

KCLSRecommends Oct 22, 2014

A bestselling novel, primarily set in Seattle, about the love and friendship between a Chinese American boy and a Japanese American girl during the internment in World War II.

Jul 27, 2014

You commented saying that the characters are flat. I thought I might mention that this could be due to the more stoic and serious Chinese and Japanese cultures.

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