Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
By Jamie Ford
Ballantine Books, 2009, 290 pgs. Fiction.
The story of Henry, a Chinese-American, and his experiences as a youth in Seattle during World War II. The story jumps back and forth between the 1940s and 1986, a short time after Henry has lost his wife to cancer as he struggles to bond with his college age son.
When Henry was in his early teens, just before the war began, his parents put him in an all-white American school and told him he could never speak Chinese again even though this meant he would not be able to communicate with them. At his new school, Henry met Keiko, a Japanese girl, and the only other non-white student. They bonded quickly but Henry’s father who was a strong loyalist to China, hated the Japanese because of their invasion of China. Henry is conflicted by his loyalty to his family and his devotion to a Japanese-American girl who is treated so horribly by her fellow Americans.
This is an interesting read about a dark time in American history. The characters were well developed, but for me there was something lacking in the story. It was missing an emotional intensity. I just didn’t care enough about what happened. Although others might disagree.