Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

by Jamie Ford, (c)2009,

An old hotel, a Japanese parasol, a secret World War II internment camp.  What do any of these have to do with a Chinese widower trying to get on with living?  "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" tells a story of lost love, family betrayal and wartime oppression, set in Seattle, Washington.

Henry, a Chinese boy, and Keiko, a Japanese girl, become best friends shortly after the start of the Great War.  When Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, the United States government starts "relocating" U.S. citizens of Japanese descent as well as Japanese immigrants, forcing them to abandon homes, businesses and treasured possessions.  Ford's depiction of the internment camps, though not as inhuman as the Nazi concentration camps, is nevertheless a frightening image of what a government is capable of, given too much power.  As grown-up Henry works through his grief and guilt after the death of his wife, events unfold that give him new hope and purpose in life, and maybe, in love.

This was our September Book Club read.  At first I thought it was a romance, which I don't care for.  After sneaking a peek at the first and last chapters, however, I realized it was historical fiction, which I greatly enjoy.  I could not put it down, and I appreciate that it addresses one of the "dirty little secrets" of our great country.  One of the benefits of books and now of the digital age, is the ability to expose such wrongs and make the general public aware, so that we can prevent them from happening again.  I highly recommend "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" for middle schoolers through adults.

I checked this book out of the local library, through our Book Club.  No compensation was received for this review.

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