Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication date: January 2009
ISBN: 9780345505347
Source: Library

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

When an abandoned hotel is reopened after being closed over forty years, Henry is shocked at the items that uncover memories long forgotten.  He remembers growing up Chinese in Seattle, during the war years.  His father was a strict Chinese traditionalist, forcing his family to abide by his ideas.  But, when America entered WWII after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, his father decided Henry must become as American as possible, no longer speaking Cantonese at home.  Since his parents didn't speak English, this made his home life very quiet.  When he meets a Japanese girl, the only other non-white kid at his school, he is reluctant to be friends with her, fearing his father's anti-Japanese sentiments.  Despite his trepidation, his relationship with Keiko becomes stronger over time.  But can it last?

Things I Liked:
The story is beautiful, unfolding slowly and quietly, but becoming more powerful as it appears.  I came to adore Henry and Keiko and Sheldon as they experienced a different time and world than we live in now.  You can't look away as the events of Henry's past unfold for us and also for his son.  I love how those past things open up Henry's current relationship with his son.  My heart would break and then heal and then break again over the things they experienced, both from Henry's father and from other people.  A lovely story that will make you believe in second chances.

The more Henry thought about the shabby old knickknacks, the forgotten treasures, the more he wondered if his own broken heart might be found in there, hidden among the unclaimed possessions of another time.  Boarded up in the basement of a condemned hotel.  Lost, but never forgotten. p 7
She'd asked Henry to use a set of clippers and shave it all off, which he did, reluctantly.  It was the first of many personal moments they would share together.  A long sabbatical into her day-to-day care, part of the mechanics of dying.  He'd done all he could.  But choosing to lovingly care for her was like steering a plane into a mountain as gently as possible.  The crash is imminent; it's how you spend your time on the way down that counts. p 34
His father had said once that the hardest choices in life aren't between what's right and what's wrong but between what's right and what's best. p 204
He didn't regret watching her go as much as he regretted not telling her how much he cared.  How much she meant.  His father was a horrible communicator.  After all the time he'd rebelled against his father's wishes and his father's ways, Henry hated the fact that he wasn't that different from him at all - not where it mattered, anyway. p 209
Some things just can't be put back together.  Some things can never be fixed.  Two broken pieces can't make a lot of anything anymore.  But at least he had the broken pieces. p 275
Things I Didn't Like:
It was a little hard to get into at first.  I think the revelations and mystery of Henry's past came a little too slow at first.  But, once it picked up a bit, I was hooked!


Kind of similar themes in Born to Fly by Michael Ferarri

s-factor: !
maybe one or two (racial slurs are quite common)

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
a few parts that brush over it, nothing much

Overall rating: *****

Do you have a favorite WWII American historical fiction?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. I am glad to see you liked this one. I feel like the reviews thus far have been pretty ambivalent.

  2. I really want to read this one. Probably because it's set in Seattle where I grew up so I am glad you liked it so much!

  3. reviewsbylola, maybe I don't read enough in the genre for adults, but I thought it was darn good. I've seen some reviews that mention other, better books with similar themes.

    Amused, I definitely think native Seattle-ites will like it!

  4. Why haven't I read this yet??? I even bought it for myself for my birthday!

  5. You should definitely put it near the top of your pile (if you're anything like me, stuff you own is at the bottom of the pile).


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