Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

This was a good book! Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford was recommended to me by my daughter and she lent me her copy. It was a book that her book group had read.

The story is about a young boy (Henry)of Chinese parents who begins a relationship with a young girl (Keiko) of Japanese parents. Both of the children were born in the United States after their parents immigrated. The story takes place in Seattle during WWII.

Henry's parents insisted that he only speak English, even though they did not understand or speak English. He was not allowed to speak Chinese to them. So he grew up feeling quite isolated in his home. He was their only child and had no one at home that he could talk to. His father was very anti-Japanese and spent his time focused on what the Japanese armies were doing. Henry kept his friendship with Keiko from his parents as long as he could.

Soon Keiko and her family were evacuated to internment camps and eventually over time, Henry lost touch with Keiko.

Jump to 1986. Henry's wife had recently died and his son was away at college. One day, Henry heard that the new owner of the Panama Hotel in Seattle had discovered boxes, suitcases, etc. in the basement of the hotel left there by Japanese families who had been evacuated during the war. There is a possiblity that Keiko's family's belongings are there and thus sets the stage for the story.

There are several things going on in this story. I had never really read anything about the internment camps that were developed and used during the war, so that was intriguing to me. But along with the sweet story of young love, there was a very strong theme of how families communicate with each other, and how that can have such a powerful impact on the family members. Clearly, the lack of communication in Henry's family would have an obvious effect on him. It played out in his relationship with his own son. Very interesting!

This book was quite interesting and a quick read. I recommend it for when you are in-between books and need something light to read!


Anonymous said...

For another great story about internment camps, try "Snow Falling on Cedars" by David Guterson.

Beth F said...

I've been wanting to read this one. I liked Snow Falling on Cedars too.