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Literary Friday: Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Friday, July 31, 2015

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  Summer is almost over, and I noticed how I got way off track with my Summer Reading List, but that's okay!

This week I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  I read his other book The Songs of Willow Frost last week, and I must say that I loved both of them equally well.  I can see why Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a book club favorite!

Because I'm really pressed for time (this his been a tremendously busy week) I'm including the synopsis from Goodreads.

From Goodreads:

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry's world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While "scholarshipping" at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship - and innocent love - that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel's dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice - words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

*end synopsis*

This story is more bitter than sweet to me because it depicts one of the most shameful, tragic, and oppressive acts in our country's history:  The Executive Order 9066, or the Japanese Relocation Act. The internment of Japanese Americans was the World War II confinement of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese heritage who lived on the Pacific coast of the United States.  Many of these people were Americans, yet during the hysteria after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt caved to pressure to uproot families from their homes and move them to internment camps.

This little girl waits to be taken to a camp
from Jamie Ford's blog, also included in the book

But the sweet is there, oh yes it is!  No spoilers here, because, as in life, we can choose to forgive and focus more on the good rather than the bad.  The book's ending is more than satisfying.  You'll be cheering for Henry as he makes a discovery that's taken a lifetime to unfold.

This is definitely a character driven novel.  I adore Henry and his spirit.  I also enjoy family dramas, and the relationship between Henry and his son Marty is worth reading.  I love it when fathers and sons can overcome misunderstandings and tragedies and move on to a joyful and loving relationship.

So what can I say other than I am a HUGE Jamie Ford fan!  I can't wait to read his next book.  I read on his blog that he's working on a YA series.  *squee*

I have no idea what I'll start reading tonight, but you can check back and see what's on my sidebar. Mayhap I'll go back to my neglected Summer Reading List!

Until next time...

Happy Reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. Good morning! I was excited to see that I can check out this book as an ebook from my library! I can't wait to read it. Thanks for hosting this fun party! Enjoy your day, Diane

  2. Oh yes, I read that. I really liked it but the ending was sorry....definitely bittersweet.

  3. This sounds like a really good read RJ. We live about 60 miles from one of those internment camps right here in Idaho. I have never visited the area because I can't help but think I would cry the whole time I was there. But many families who had family that were interned there visit once in awhile. I often wonder what is on their minds when they make the trek there to see a part of their sad history.
    Have a great weekend RJ!

  4. I was a senior in college, one semester short of graduating when I learned about Japanese Interment Camps in a sociology class. I was so angry - with my parents, with my high school teachers, with anyone who had not exposed me to this time in our history. I spoke to my parents (after I cooled off) and the discussion was interesting. Several of my father's childhood friends were placed in interment camps. I knew them as adults and friends of my parents, but no one ever talked about the time in history.

    Steve and I pass the turn off for Manzanar when we go skiing and one spring day when the skiing conditions weren't great we left early and decided to stop at Manzanar despite the long drive home. We were glad we did - so hard to imagine that this happened in our country and to people whom we know well.

  5. Thanks for the review. I'm just starting ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. Have you read it?

  6. I feel like my reading lately has been more to serve as a distraction and also as a task to get through the pile of unread books! I just read Around Ireland with a Fridge. It was fun!

  7. This book has been on my Audible wish list that I'm slowing working my way through. Thanks for your review :)

  8. This book sounds like one I definitely want to read. I am going to have to add it to my wish list! Thanks Ricki Jill.


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Hello, Lovelies!

I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.


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