Isn’t that the most beautiful cover? I don’t remember requesting this book, so I was so surprised to get it in the mail right before Christmas–right before I decided to stop taking in ARCs because Trish has too many books!! Eeeep! :)
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the story of Henry Lee as he looks back on events that shaped his life. One afternoon he passes by the Panama Hotel in Seattle and notices that the hotel has come under new ownership and will be opening its doors for the first time in decades. Buried in the basement of the Panama Hotel, however, is a world of treasure from a lifetime forgotten–items that were left behind by the Japanese who were relocated to internment camps during WWII.
Seeing these items being brought into the open takes Henry back forty years to when he was a 12-year-old whose traditional Chinese parents stop his education at the Chinese school so he can attend the “white” school. At first Henry is the only Asian student, but soon he discovers a beautiful girl, Keiko, who is of Japanese descent. Their relationship is rocky at first and then one of necessity as they are teased by the other students–especially in light of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Soon they grow to be the closest friends, but they will have to part when Keiko’s family is forced to leave Seattle for an internment camp in Idaho.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a really touching book about friendship and love, but also an important story of a piece of American history that is quickly looked over. I don’t remember learning about the internment camps when I was in school–the first time I remember any mention is when I was read Snow Falling on Cedars several years ago. While this was a beautiful story, we don’t learn very much about the internment camps other than they were heavily guarded, very large, and in the beginning not very pleasant (I felt that Ford sometimes simplified the camps). I do have a few books jotted down that I’m interested in reading, but I had hoped there would be more detail or perspective in this book.
While a great deal of the book takes place in flashbacks to the 1940s, there is also Henry’s story in the present time. He is dealing with his wife’s death and a shaky relationship with his son. I enjoyed both portions of the book, and thought that Ford pieced them together very nicely. I would recommend this book–while it won’t be my favorite of the year (for me it was lacking a little ooomph), it was very enjoyable–heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I guess like the title: bitter and sweet.