Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Book: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author: Jamie Ford

Short Summary:
Alternating between 1942 and 1986, this book is the story of Henry Lee, a Chinese-American boy who is dealing with his feelings for a Keiko Okabe, a Japanese-American girl. Henry is sent to an all white school by his parents where he meets and quickly befriends the only other Asian American, Keiko. Their friendship develops quickly, but is forbidden by Henry’s family because of Keiko’s Japanese heritage. The world is at war and the Japanese are the enemy to both China and America. This book explores the unlikely relationship between Henry and Keiko, as America becomes less accepting of Japanese Americans and eventually puts them in internment camps. We are also brought into Henry’s life 40 years after the war, as he deals with the loss of his wife Ethel to a long battle with cancer. Henry’s relationship with his son, Marty, is somewhat strained and he is working to repair it. Henry mourns Ethel and also can’t help think about the girl, Keiko, who disappeared so many years ago.

My Thoughts:
This is a story that deals with an important and shameful topic in American history, Japanese internment during World War II. While the topic is a heavy one, the story deals with it in a somewhat simplistic and lighthearted way.

The relationship between Henry and Keiko was sweet, but sometimes too much so. It was almost too perfect which made it feel unrealistic. Continue reading