Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford is not the type of book I would chose to read normally but it’s the next selection for the book club I belong to and since I didn’t read the last two selections, I thought I’d better dig into this one or risk being excommunicated from the group.
I liked it. It was an easy, enjoyable read. It didn’t surprise me, it didn’t grab me and pull me in, but I did persevere and finish the book.
Hotel, is the story of Henry, a young Chinese-American boy, growing up in Seattle during WWII. Henry has gotten an opportunity to attend a local private school where he is one of only two Asian-Americans in his class. The other is Keiko, a young Japanese girl who captures Henry’s heart and mind.
This is a love story, interwoven with the nasty history of the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Ford employs flashbacks of Henry’s childhood—his crush on Keiko, his struggle to connect with his uber-traditionalist father who wants him to return to China, yet won’t let him speak Cantonese at home and his friendship with a black jazz musician—to weave his story of love, loss and eventual reconnection.
The characters are broad, simple and sweet. There’s nothing in the tale that will surprise you. Ford has chosen an interesting time and place and built a story that will educate and engage readers who want to know more about the era. It is shocking to realize that this was not that long ago, but also, that maybe prejudices have not really changed, as much as they have simply evolved in the intervening years.
Perfect for a book club selection, but that’s about the best recommendation I can give.