Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of bitter and Sweet

I wasn't convinced getting into this that I would get through the book. While I found it within my library's ebooks and it seemed interesting, I didn't have any recommendations from friends to assure me that it would be wonderful.

Friends, let me be that friend.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an historical fiction novel. It reads, however, like a true story unfolding in front of you.

This is beautiful story about Henry, a Chinese American, battling through his childhood during the 1940s. He is the likable misfit who is mainstreamed into an all white school where he is bullied and called a devil because of his nationality.

Keiko enters, a new student who is also "scholarshipped" into the school with Henry. The students mistake them for the same race, although to her own misfortune, Keiko is Japanese. While she is in fact a second generation American, she and her family are still treated as possible spies during the ongoing war.

This story is completely heart-wrenching and consuming. I wanted to cry out in response to the injustices of this book; in this time. In other words, i was outraged. And if these fictional characters had such a story, imagine the actual Japanese Americans who were forced to live in interment camps solely because of their race; who left everything behind and came back to nothing?

Ford does state that while the book is a work of fiction, the hotel that is the pivot point of the book, the Panama Hotel, does exist.

Moreover, it was the location where many family hid their possessions before being taken to camps of which the locations were unknown to them. 37 family's belongings were kept in the basement, a time capsule as Henry refers to it as in his search in the novel.

Also woven through the timeline is a snippet of the local jazz scene, and Oscar Holden even briefly interacts with Henry and Keiko.

The next time I am able to go to my favorite Japanese restaurant and indulge, I will definitely have a different perspective. 50 or so years ago, I would not have had a chance to broaden my palate.

I will definitely be on the look-out for Jamie Ford's future books.

The picture below is a screen shot I took from the author's website.

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